Classical Antiguan cellist stars at Royal wedding

Let’s face it, even Antiguans will concede that their most known export is their sweet, delicious Antigua Black pineapple.

Acclaimed for being the world’s best, the fruit will have to take a backseat to a teenager named Sheku Kanneh-Mason who after a globally televised performance from England on May 19 is now all the rave.

The 19-year-old secured the Eastern Caribbean’s coveted pride when he performed three songs at the much talked-about royal wedding of Prince Harry and his bride, the former actress Meghan Markle.

Acclaimed in England, the rest of the world received an audio and visual treat when the prodigy played French composer Gabriel Faure’s “Apres un reve,” Maria Theresia von Paradis “Sicilienne” and Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”

According to the Washington Post, the teenager had planned to make his U.S. orchestral debut as the guest soloist for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra during the same period when he was asked to serenade the royal assembly which included Queen Elizabeth II.

Kanneh-Mason stunted a notion by many African and Caribbean nationals who assumed and claimed heritage of every Black guest.

As a matter of fact, some ascribed nationality to a choir that sang the Ben E. King classic “Stand By Me,” saying that the entire chorus of singers and conductor mush have been African-Americans.

Not so.

Similarly, the fact the individual named Sheku Kanneh-Mason was already popular on social media for his cello rendition of a Bob Marley “One Love” classic some assumed he was of Jamaican descent.

Not so.

Fact is, although Kanneh-Mason cited Marley as one of his “musical heroes,” the teenager who captured the souls of many as the couple sealed their vows inside the registry is actually part Caribbean and part African.

Kanneh-Mason was born and raised in Nottingham, England. He is the third of seven children born to Antiguan Stuart Mason, a business manager, and Sierra Leone’s Dr. Kadiatu Kanneh, a former university lecturer.

He began playing the cello at the age of 6. He said prior to taking up the instrument he was an avid fan of the violin and considered it his choice. Kanneh-Mason said his initial desire to play the cello was simple: He wanted to learn an instrument bigger than the violin his older brother Braimah played.

At that tender age, he started playing a quarter-size cello, and by the age of 9, he surpassed his fellow students when during a cello examination he excelled, scoring the highest marks in the U.K. He won the Marguerite Swan Memorial Prize.

At age 10 he was studying once a week at the Junior Royal Academy in London.

Last year, the entire Kanneh-Mason family appeared in a BBC documentary, “Young, Gifted and Classical” which spotlighted how his parents, Stuart and Kadie, raised a group of talented kids, despite the fact neither had ever had involvement in music or the arts.

“They aren’t musicians,” the 19-year-old told The Times newspaper.

“As we were learning, they were learning all of it as well. And it wasn’t always that we were going to be musicians. (My sister) Isata started the piano and very soon it seemed like she was learning very quickly, so us younger ones followed her and copied her. It hasn’t happened, but if one of my siblings wanted to do something else, they would equally have encouraged them.”

The third of seven born to the couple made a splash on television, performing a medley of songs on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

Along with six members of the family of classical musicians they awed audiences making it to the semi-finals on the popular British reality show that tests the talents of individuals and groups.

Their performance spawned a record deal and the biggest-selling British debut for the classical album, “Inspiration.”

Last year the recording scored number one on the classical chart and number 18 on the main chart, making him the youngest ever cellist to feature in the countdown.

Prince Harry first saw the teenager perform live in London for a fund-raising event last June for the Halo Foundation, an Antiguan charity.

That memorable performance must have made an impression on the royal descendant, because he asked his bride-to-be to place the classical artist on the distinguished list of performers.

“I was bowled over when Ms. Markle called me to ask if I would play during the ceremony and of course I immediately said ‘Yes!!!’”

“What a privilege. I can’t wait!” he reportedly said soon after Kensington Palace announced his acceptance to perform at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on May 19.

That classic performance did not end after the publicly-televised showcase. He also performed at the private reception at the castle where a select guest list was privileged to hear his artistry.

Since making history in 2016 as the first Black winner of the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year award in the history of its establishment 38 years ago, the classical genius has performed throughout England and last year joined Hollywood A-listers for children’s concert at Carnegie Hall.

Boasting a beach for every day of the year, the former ‘Gateway to the Caribbean’ can now expand their braggadoccio by inviting tourists to visit their 360 beaches or enjoy their Antigua Black.

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