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The Classical Station’s interview with Sheku Kanneh-Mason for Preview!

Interview with Sheku Kanneh-Mason
by Bethany Tillerson (photo credit: © Jake Turney)

At only 19 years old, Sheku Kanneh-Mason performed pieces by Fauré, Maria Theresia von Paradis, and Schubert at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle; by this time, the cellist was well-known in England, but this opportunity put him in the eyes of the world. Recently, he spoke with Music Director Caleb Gardner about his background in music and what he enjoys about the cello as a solo instrument.

KANNEH-MASON: Time management and planning ahead is something that I’ve had to get very good at to ensure that I do have the proper amount of time by myself to practice and to concentrate on something that requires a lot of focus. The freedom in the variety of disciplines is something that I’ve always enjoyed exploring and I’ve tried to make time for–I just have to handle the mix of pieces of music that require different approaches.

Kanneh-Mason had a prolific upbringing in music, having grown up surrounded by musicians as a child.

KANNEH-MASON: Music is something that I grew up doing a lot of. I’m grateful to have grown up in a household where music was all around me–I had lots of opportunities to play great pieces of chamber music at home, and I continue to enjoy playing with my siblings; there’s a connection in the way that we think about music. I perform a lot of recitals with Isata, my older sister, and I think there’s certainly an understanding and a sense of trust on stage when we perform together that comes from playing with each other for so long. Competitiveness comes in for things like board games, and then it’s serious. But when it comes to music, it’s a supportive atmosphere.

Regarding his lifelong love of music, he also spoke about what draws him to make certain recordings, and what he appreciates about the cello as a classical instrument.

KANNEH-MASON: I try to only play and record music that I have a strong connection to. This album contains the music that I grew up listening to, so it feels natural to play that on my cello, and that always has to be the driving force for making an arrangement or a recording. I’ve had quite a varied musical upbringing, so I think that will always feed into what I want to play and perform. The cello is an instrument that has such an incredible range and a very direct quality; solo cello music is something that speaks intimately and personally, and I enjoy the feeling of that intimate power when I’m just sitting with my cello and making music. The performance is just me on the instrument.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s interview airs at 7 p.m. on Sunday, November 27. Join The Classical Station for Preview! every week at 7 p.m. eastern. You can listen online at TheClassicalStation.org, on 89.7 FM, or on the App.