Royal wedding cellist Kanneh-Mason, 22, says receiving MBE is ‘very special’

·3-min read
Sheku Kanneh-Mason receives his honour (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Sheku Kanneh-Mason receives his honour (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Royal wedding cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has described being honoured with an MBE at the age of 22 as “very, very special”.

After performing at Windsor Castle for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018, the classical musician returned to collect an MBE for services to music.

Kanneh-Mason, who became the first black BBC Young Musician in 2016, was joined by his father, Stuart, as he was presented with the award by the Princess Royal on Wednesday.

He previously revealed to the PA news agency that he did not feel nervous playing at the royal wedding, and appeared equally unruffled after collecting his accolade.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason comes from a musical family (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Sheku Kanneh-Mason comes from a musical family (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

The softly spoken musician, who has been playing the cello since the age of six and comes from a musical family with six siblings, said: “It feels like a massive honour to collect this today.

“It’s very, very exciting to be recognised for doing what I love anyway – it’s very, very special.”

The rising star is the third of seven children born to immigrant parents from Antigua and Sierra Leone.

He has performed at the BBC Proms every summer since 2017, including 2020 when he gave a breath-taking pandemic performance with his sister, Isata, to an empty auditorium.

During the spring 2020 lockdown, Kanneh-Mason and his siblings performed via virtual livestreams from their family home in Nottingham. He told PA there has never been any rivalry between them.

He said: “I think we just inspire each other and encourage each other, and it was highlighted in the lockdown that we could play together with each other, that was always something I was grateful for growing up.”

“I enjoy sharing music that I have thought about and spent time working on, I enjoy sharing that with the audience, it’s a very exciting experience and thrilling to perform,” he added.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason played at a royal wedding (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)
Sheku Kanneh-Mason played at a royal wedding (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

“I just feel very lucky, always, when I’m on stage.

“It has been difficult to not have that audience during the pandemic, so it’s great to have that back. It’s always such a special thing.”

Kanneh-Mason revealed his biggest musical muse is late cellist Jacqueline du Pre.

He said: “I always enjoyed watching her play and her approach to music which was always 100% passion and commitment to every note she played.”

Kanneh-Mason is the highest-charting cellist of all time in the UK, after his 2020 album Elgar, based on Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto, hit number eight, making it the first to ever break into the top 10.

He is also the first British classical instrumentalist in more than 30 years to reach the top 10 after violinist Nigel Kennedy released Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in 1989, which peaked at number three.

Kanneh-Mason’s performance of three pieces of music at the royal wedding, including his tear-jerking rendition of Ave Maria, is believed to have been watched by an estimated two billion people across the world.

The cellist studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London as a bicentenary fellow and plays a Matteo Goffriller cello from 1700 which is on indefinite loan to him.

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