The story of Sheku Kanneh-Mason continues. Today, the famous cellist releases a brand new solo album, which reveals more than ever about the young star and what inspires him. Song (referring to the unique sound of the cello) is available now on Decca Classics and is Sheku’s most personal album to date, presenting a musical portrait of the gifted musician.
Spanning from Bach to Bacharach, Song sees Sheku present an extraordinary kaleidoscope of music. He and his cello travel effortlessly from simple folk tunes to classic works such as Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Stravinsky, to jazz melodies and an original pop song, written by the cellist himself – while demonstrating his innate ability to communicate with their listeners. This eclectic mix of styles, all tied together by the striking sound of Sheku’s cello, reflects his breadth as a musician, demonstrating how he draws inspiration from many genres.
The new record follows Sheku’s previous two solo albums Classical No.1, Inspiration (2018) and Elgar (2020), the latter reaching No. 8 on the Official UK Albums Chart, making him the first cellist in history. UK charts. enter the Top 10.
Since his last record-breaking solo album, Sheku has received an MBE at Buckingham Palace for his services to music, been featured in two BBC documentaries about the Kanneh-Mason family, and released two albums with his siblings (Carnival , featuring all six siblings, and the duet album Muse, featuring her sister Isata Kanneh-Mason, which features on four Song tracks). He went on to both tour the world performing at the world’s greatest concert halls and lead workshops as an ambassador for UK music charity Music Masters, while racking up over 215 million flows worldwide. Sheku also has a busy international touring schedule this season (see below for details).
On Song, in addition to performing solo, Sheku is joined by some of the musicians he enjoys working with, collaborating with family and friends while showcasing his talents as an arranger and composer. He opens with his own versions of two beautiful folk tunes, one of them being Myfanwy, his Welsh grandmother’s favorite song, here arranged for three cellos (all played by Sheku).
Sheku says, “It’s one of my absolute favorite melodies, and one I’ve known for as long as I can remember. I spent a lot of my childhood in Wales with my family and in particular my Welsh grandmother, so it’s for her.”
Sheku also shares his own version of Aretha Franklin’s I Say a Little Prayer (written by Burt Bacharach) for solo pizzicato cello. As a child, he would play along to melodies like this when he dithered over cello practice, then he would perform it as an encore. He also improvises with his friend and jazz pianist Harry Baker on the melody Cry Me A River, a song recorded by Ella Fitzgerald. He then presents his own first arrangement of Bach for several cellos. For their original song, Same Boat, Sheku collaborates with a good friend, singer-songwriter Zak Abel. As Sheku explains, they wanted to combine “the raw intimate sound of Zak’s voice with the organic sounds of the cello.” And for Massenet’s beautiful Élégie, he joins forces with another vocalist, the hard-hitting South African soprano, Pumeza Matshikiza.
Another world premiere on the album is a new work (commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music, where Sheku studied) by British composer Edmund Finnis, who wrote the Five Preludes especially for Sheku, while, among several established works, the cellist also brings us a movement from Messiaen’s incredibly moving Quatuor pour la fin des temps, written while he was a prisoner of war during World War II.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason first came to public attention when he won the BBC Young Musician award aged 17 and, on his 19th birthday, he was performing at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding Markle, watched by 3 billion people worldwide. He has since been named one of TIME magazine’s Next Generation Leaders, proof of his ability to cross musical boundaries and attract new audiences to the world of classical music. With this amazing new album, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
List of songs
1. Traditional: Star of County Down (Arr. Sheku Kanneh-Mason for cello)
2. J. Parry: Myfanwy (Arr. Sheku Kanneh-Mason for cello)
3. Lullaby for Kamila (Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Harry Baker for cello and piano)
4. Villa-Lobos: 2. Prelúdio (Modinha) (Arr. Parkin for 5 cellos) [Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1, W246]
5. Beethoven: 12 variations on Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen, op. 66
6. Mendelssohn: No. 1, Expressive Andante [Songs without Words, Op. 62]
7. Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words, Op. 109
8. Massenet: Elegy for soprano, cello and piano
9. Stravinsky: Chanson russe (Arr. Markevitch for cello and piano)
10. JS Bach: Come, sweet death, BWV 478 (Arr. Sheku Kanneh-Mason for 5 cellos)
11. Messiaen: V. Praise to the Eternity of Jesus [Quartet for the End of Time]
12. JS Bach: Savior of the Nations, Come, BWV 659 (Arr. Sheku Kanneh-Mason for 4 cellos)
13. Cry Me a River (Arr. for cello and piano)
14. Falling in Love Again (Arr. Parkin for 2 cellos)
15. Finnish: Prelude I
16. Finnish: Prelude II
17. Finnish: Prelude III
18. Finnish: Prelude IV
19. Finnish: Prelude V
20. Same Boat
21. I say a little prayer (Arr. Sheku Kanneh-Mason for cello)
Sheku Kanneh-Mason 2022 US Tour Schedule
October 10, 2022 – Granada Theater (Community Arts Music Foundation of Santa Barbara) | Santa Barbara, California
October 11, 2022 – Segerstrom Center for the Arts (Philharmonic Society of Orange County) | Costa Mesa, California
October 12, 2022 – Walt Disney Concert Hall (LA Phil) | Los Angeles, CA
October 15, 2022 – Mondavi Center for the Arts (UC Davis) | Davis, California
October 16, 2022 – Davies Symphony Hall (San Francisco Symphony) | San Francisco, California
October 19, 2022 – Hill Auditorium (University Musical Society) | Ann Arbor, MI
October 21, 2022 – Strathmore (Washington Performing Arts) | North Bethesda, MD
October 22, 2022 – Carnegie Hall | New York, NY
December 8, 9 and 10, 2022 – Kimmel Center (Philadelphia Orchestra) | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
For tickets and full international dates, please go to: shekukannehmason.com/live/