Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason cherishes royal wedding performance

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Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason performed three musical selections at the wedding ceremony of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. | Lars Borges

He may not have been a household name outside the UK before the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but now the world can’t seem to get enough of British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

The 19-year-old musician from Nottingham, England, wowed nearly a billion television viewers (not to mentioned a packed St. George’s Chapel) with his emotionally charged three-song musical interlude during Saturday’s royal wedding ceremony in Windsor.

Call it just another leg of his musical road journey. He started playing piano at age 5, the cello at age 6. He is currently studying at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2015, he and his siblings, also music phenoms, were semi-finalists on “Britain’s Got Talent.” At the 2017 BAFTA Awards (Britain’s version of the Oscars), he thrilled the audience with his gorgeous rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” And this fall, he will make his solo U.S. orchestral debut, with the Seattle Symphony.

“From the minute I picked up the cello, I just love the sound and really wanted to play it all the time,” Kanneh-Mason told the BBC1 in a 2016 interview. By the time he was 9, he and the cello became inseparable.

Performing at the royal wedding stared with a chance meeting with the groom.

“Just over a year ago I was performing at a charity event at which Prince Harry was present,” Sheku-Mason said, calling from London. “That was the first time he heard me. I spent some time with him very briefly [at the event]. … Then a few months ago I received a call from Meghan Markle asking me to play at the wedding. I was just honored by it.”

At the wedding ceremony, Kanneh-Mason first enchanted with his performance of von Paradis: Sicilienne in E Flat Major, followed by Fauré: Après Un Rêve, Op.7. The two pieces were his selections for the ceremony, he said.

| Courtesy Decca Records

| Courtesy Decca Records

“The first two pieces, I’ve played for a while, and I suggested them because I thought they would work pretty well together,” he said. “The Faure [piece] I play a lot, so I knew it very well. The first piece [Sicilienne in E Flat Major], I listen to it a lot and have played it before,” Kanneh-Mason continued.

The final piece he performed, Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” was a special request. “[‘Ave Maria’] was a request from the couple,” Kanneh-Mason said. “They really love it. … I know it very well from having heard it lots of times but have not really played it [much] before.”

Kanneh-Mason comes from a musical family. His siblings — one brother and five sisters — are all musicians, with extraordinary prowess on piano and violin, as well as cello.

“The main reason I love playing is I grew up with music all around the house,” he said. “I would listen to my older siblings when they practiced. My parents always played music around the house.”

On Saturday, the ceremony was filled with powerful music moments including “Stand by Me” and “This Little Light of Mine,” performed by The Kingdom Choir. An album of the entire service, recorded live at St. George’s Chapel by Decca Records, is currently streaming (or available for download) on various digital platforms including iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon. The CD will be available May 25 at retailers.

While he did not attend the reception, Kanneh-Mason said the ceremony was an unforgettable experience he will always cherish, and it was thrilling just to be able to perform his music in the chapel.

“It has wonderful acoustics,” he said.” “It felt great to play this beautiful music there.”

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