musical manuscript with the name Sawney Freeman written at the top

Juneteenth: Sawney Freeman

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In honor of Juneteenth, we’re taking the opportunity to examine the life of the newly rediscovered composer and fiddle player Sawney Freeman, who was perhaps the first Black composer in America to have his work published. As aired on KBACH on June 18th.

Sawney Freeman – The Pleasures of Solitude


Edited and arranged by Anthony Pandolfe Jr., Recorded and mixed by Glenn Goettler. Performed on Saturday February 10, 2024 in New Canaan Conn., by violinists Ilmar Gavilan, Jonathan Frelix, Briana Almonte, flautist Jessica Valiente and cellist Paul Vanderwal. Sawney Freeman's music was discovered in a copy book dated 1817 within the Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Hartford. A pocket companion with Freeman's music was published in 1801 according to an advertisement found in historical records. Freeman was enslaved in Connecticut in the 1760s; after his emancipation he lived in Centerbrook (Essex) and died in 1828. The musicians performing are Jonathan Frelix, violin, Ilmar Gavilán, violin, Jessica Valiente, woodwinds, Briana Almonte, violin, Paul Vanderwal, cello.

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