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Special Reports

Where Are They Now?
Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason

June 5, 2018 | By Janelle Gelfand

New Artist of the Month: January 2017

In the two years since winning top prize in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has risen from prodigal student to budding superstar performer at the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.

In January, Inspiration, the cellist’s first recording for Decca Classics—the contract was part of his BBC prize—debuted at No. 1 on the U.K. classical chart. The album includes Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra led by Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla, and short works highlighted by Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry.” The latter went viral on social media, achieving one million streams on Spotify in its first month.

Besides his daily routine as a fulltime student at the Royal Academy of Music, where he studies with Hannah Roberts, Kanneh-Mason’s schedule is packed with orchestral debuts on both sides of the pond. Next season will include his U.S. concerto debut playing the Rococo Variations with the Seattle Symphony in October and with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra in March, 2019, marking his first appearance at the Concertgebouw.

At the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, where he will perform the Elgar Concerto in 2019, the orchestra’s website remarks that the English prodigy Jacqueline du Pré made it her signature piece.“Now audiences are abuzz over a new English prodigy: Sheku Kanneh-Mason.” He’ll also be playing Elgar when he makes his debut at the Vienna Konzerthaus with the Japan Philharmonic next season.

Kanneh-Mason’s personal story, as one of seven exceedingly talented children in a Nottingham family, continues to command attention in his native U.K. (He also performs in a trio with his sister Isata and brother Braimah.) In February, Kanneh-Mason performed with four of his six silbings in “Evening of Roses” at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards show at Royal Albert Hall, delivering an emotional performance noted even in Vogue magazine.

And he finds time to share his talent as a London Music Masters Junior Ambassador. Next season, he’ll participate in educational outreach as Young Artist in Residence at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

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