Award-winning British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has become the first cellist in chart history to land a place in the UK Official Album Chart Top 10. The news makes Sheku the first British classical instrumentalist in over 30 years to hit the Top 10 after violinist Nigel Kennedy released Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in 1989.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s new album Elgar, released last Friday, is a new entry at No.8 in the UK Official Album Chart placing “the world’s new favourite cellist” (The Times) alongside Stormzy, Lewis Capaldi and Selena Gomez in the ten best-selling records this week. Elgar – which includes the composer’s famous Cello Concerto recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Simon Rattle – is also at the top of the UK Classical Artist Chart, giving Sheku his second classical No.1 album. Sheku Kanneh-Mason was inspired to learn the cello after hearing Jacqueline du Pré’s recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto when he was a child. His debut album, Inspiration, peaked at No. 11 in the UK Official Album Chart chart following Sheku’s performance at the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in May 2018, watched by nearly 2 billion people worldwide.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason was delighted to learn that he has become the first cellist to land a UK Top 10 and has beaten his own chart record. Speaking in between lessons at the Royal Academy of Music, where he is currently studying, Sheku said, “I am so excited that my album is in the Top 10 of the Official UK Album Chart – thank you Edward Elgar for writing such a fantastic piece of music! And thank you to Sir Simon Rattle and all the other great artists who feature on the recording too.”
Rebecca Allen, President of Decca Records, was delighted to see Sheku in the charts alongside other inspiring young artists and declared, “What a wonderful way to start the new year, and so richly deserved. Sheku is such a fantastic role model for young people and he inspires me every day with his commitment to encouraging others to share his deep love of music. The Decca team are so privileged to work with such a superstar!”
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, remarkably only 20 years old, was appointed Member of the British Empire (MBE) for services to music in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. On receiving the news Sheku referenced how his own music education experiences have shaped his professional life and explained, “The love and enjoyment for this great art is something that should be available to everyone, regardless of background. I had incredible support from the state schools I attended in Nottingham where music was promoted for its value in developing listening skills, teamwork, self-expression and hard work.”
Music education provision remains a topic close to Sheku’s heart. In addition to recording, performing and studying, he leads primary school workshops and masterclasses in his role as Ambassador for music charities London Music Masters and Future Talent.
‘The Sheku Effect’ is spreading. Reports from the world-leading examinations board – the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music – and the National Schools Symphony Orchestra suggest that uptake in cello tuition and examinations has increased since Sheku’s 2016 BBC Young Musician win.
Last week, the i paper commented, “I can’t think of a better young ambassador for the triumphs of classical music education today”. Today’s unprecedented chart position is further proof of his phenomenal appeal.
Elgar is out now and can be bought here.