He is only 19 years old and of mixed Antiguan, Sierra Leone and Welsh parentage. He is a student at the Royal Academy of Music.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the royal wedding cellist
SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - May 28, 2018 - 12:00am

Being glued to the TV screen while watching the wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle last Saturday, May 19, brought about a kaleidoscope of emotions which I am happy to note was blissfully positive.

There were wows for all the pomp and pageantry and oohs and aahs at the glamor and beauty that congregated in a single place. Extremes of kilig were felt at the sight of two young people beginning a life together. They are so blessed. The thousands of years old British monarchy bucked conventions and tweaked traditions for the first time ever in acknowledgment of their love.

It was quite a show seen by millions around the world. But the goosey moment, the one that all of a sudden announced those watching they were before someone special came not from Harry or Meghan or any of those guests present. It happened when this young man, quietly took a seat at the entrance to the nave of the Saint George Chapel of Windsor Castle and then begun to play the cello while the couple were signing the Registry. I am sure that at that moment, everybody watching asked, who is he?

Who was he indeed that his unobtrusive entrance could result in music so spellbinding? It was Sheku Kanneh-Mason. He is only 19 years old and of mixed Antiguan, Sierra Leone and Welsh parentage. He is a student at the Royal Academy of Music. Two years ago, he became the first black musician to win the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. Young, black, talented and attractive, Sheku is classical music’s brightest star at the moment.

It was Prince Harry who saw Sheku perform at an Antiguan charity event. Then, he got a call from Meghan inviting him to perform at the wedding. Sheku picked out two of his favorite pieces for the very special gig — Gabriel Faure’s Apres un reve and Maria Theresia von Paradis’ Sicilienne. Then the couple made a request, Schubert’s Ave Maria.

Sheku’s playing easily reduced the wedding guests to rapt silence but I think it was the Ave Maria that lifted the experience to the realm of heavenly. And along with gushing over the beautiful wedding the next day, those who watched were also busy checking up on Sheku.

Released early this year, Sheku’s debut recording titled Inspiration became the first classical album to make it to the Top 20 in the British pop charts. Now, after almost the entire world has fallen under the spell of this extraordinarily gifted boy, expect record sales, streams and downloads of this album to increase tenfold or more.

Inspiration’s centerpiece is Sheku’s signature rendition of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1 in E Flat Major Opus 107, one of the most difficult compositions ever written. He performs all four movements live with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra using his 1610 Brothers Amati cello. This was what he played when he won the BBC Musician of the Year competition in 2016. This brought him to the attention of elite music circles resulting in invitations to perform in other countries.

Inspiration also includes his personal choices: Hadar’s Evening of Roses with the CBSO cellos; The Swan from Saint Saens’ Le Carnaval des Animaux with cello, harp and ensemble; Song Of The Bird by an unknown composer; The Gadfly Suite Opus 97a by Shostakovich; Offenbach’s Harmonies des bois Opus 76-2 Jacqueline’s Tears in cello and orchestra; Sandana by Casals with Guy Johnston on second cello. Then, there are the pop tracks that Sheku arranged himself, Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah with Yong Jun Lee and Didier Osindero and Alinka Rowe.

To marvel at this kid’s artistry, take in the Shostakovich concerto. His playing is fantastic. But if all you are after is a dreamy time with Sheku and his cello, listen to the light pieces in Inspiration and then go back to the royal wedding.

Now available, The Royal Wedding Album of Harry and Meghan, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, contains the complete audio track of the ceremony. That means everything said and heard, the vows, the readings, the sermon by the Rev. Michael Curry, and most especially all the music. Particularly touching are the hymns by the Choir of St. George Chapel, If Ye Love Me and Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer and of course Sheku’s enchanting cello interlude.

SHEKU KANNEH-MASON
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