Stories » From the royal wedding, to the BBC Proms, Sheku Kanneh-Mason looks back on a breakout 2018 / Radio Times

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From the royal wedding, to the BBC Proms, Sheku Kanneh-Mason looks back on a breakout 2018 / Radio Times

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British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has played at the grandest of stages and broken into the UK and US top 20 – all at the age of 19. Meghan Markle has impeccable manners. Within a few weeks of marrying Prince Harry, she'd already sent out her thank-you letters – including a heartfelt one to young British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. With his stunning, emotional performance at the royal wedding, playing three pieces as the newlyweds signed the register at St George's Chapel, this unassuming Nottingham teenager seemed to encapsulate the spirit of the day and its nation-bonding mood of optimism and love. "It's a really nice letter," he reveals, with characteristic humility. "Really personal. It was an amazing experience to play at the wedding and nice to know how much the music meant to them."

In providing a perfect soundtrack to the nuptials for more than 12 million viewers in Britain and many more worldwide, he may also have helped change more than just the perception of classical music in the UK and beyond. Because not only did he put the cello at the heart of a wedding in which the likes of Elton John and George Clooney played walk-on roles as guests, but he was also part of a royal celebration that had black faces to the fore, from the Rev Michael Curry, the African-American bishop who preached the sermon, to the Kingdom Choir, who sang the R&B classic, Stand by Me.

Sales of his debut album Inspiration, which came out earlier this year, have not only smashed the UK charts since the wedding (he was the youngest classical cellist ever to enter the UK Top 20), but have been breaking records around the world and online, hitting number one on iTunes and Amazon. In the USA, he charted in the Billboard album top 20 (the first classical cellist to do so) and became the first classical artist to top their Emerging Artist chart – a huge accolade for any classical musician, let alone one who's yet to celebrate his 20th birthday.