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Sheku Kanneh-Mason: Tiny Desk Concert

One measure of an artist's popularity is how long it takes to book them for a Tiny Desk concert. In the case of British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, it took about three years. Granted, the pandemic got in the way, but ever since his 2018 breakthrough performance at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, he's been — needless to say — in demand. Nearly 2 billion people worldwide saw his royal performance on television.

At the Tiny Desk, Kanneh-Mason played for only a handful of NPR staffers, and the performance felt like a direct communication from his luminous cello (built in 1700) to our heartstrings. It was especially true in Kanneh-Mason's own arrangement of "Myfanwy," the mournful Welsh folk song the cellist first heard from his grandmother. Accompanying himself with left hand pizzicato, Kanneh-Mason makes his instrument sing like a sad old Welshman with a tear in his eye.

Aside from his expressive playing, Kanneh-Mason excels at arranging pop songs for his instrument. "No Woman, No Cry," one of his calling cards, explores the tender and bittersweet side of the Bob Marley classic.

Still only 23, Kanneh-Mason's stature commands the attention of composers. Last year, the fine young Brit Edmund Finnis wrote a set of solo preludes for Kanneh-Mason. The music reveals the cello's many voices, from growling urgency to supple soliloquy to full-throated cry.

While we can't guarantee 2 billion views on our platforms, those who do watch this Tiny Desk performance will witness a rising young star who, whether he knows it or not, represents nothing less than the future of classical music.

SET LIST

  • Bob Marley: "No Woman, No Cry" (arr. Sheku Kanneh-Mason)
  • Edmund Finnis: Preludes I-III for solo cello
  • Joseph Parry: "Myfanwy" (arr. Sheku Kanneh-Mason)
  • MUSICIANS

  • Sheku Kanneh-Mason: cello
  • TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Tom Huizenga
  • Director/Editor: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Engineer: Andie Huether
  • Audio Mix: Josh Rogosin
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Joshua Bryant, Sofia Seidel
  • Audio Assistant: Hannah Copeland 
  • Production Assistant: Jill Britton
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Kara Frame, Maia Stern, Ashley Pointer
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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    Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.