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Music

Sheku Kanneh-Mason – number one by royal appointment?

2016’s BBC Young Musician winner has already topped the classical music charts – could his performance at Harry and Meghan’s wedding be about to do the same?

When the phone rang, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason happily agreed to perform at the young couple’s wedding. The winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician competition is currently studying at the Royal Academy; lots of music students moonlight as wedding performers, so the request was not out of the ordinary. Except this wedding was in Windsor.

“I was bowled over when Ms Markle called me to ask if I would play during the ceremony,” Kanneh-Mason later tweeted.

The groom had seen Kanneh-Mason play at a charity event in London and was impressed. The 19-year-old was selected to perform alongside the Choir of St George’s Chapel, where the wedding took place, overseen by the chapel’s director of music, James Vivian. A special orchestra was convened for the day, conducted by Christopher Warren-Green, who also led proceedings at the weddings of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. And in case that was all a little conservative, conductor Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir was also booked for the service.

If one missed out on ballot tickets (plotline contender for a future series of The Crown) the whole service will be recorded and released via Decca. A digital version became available on the day of the wedding with physical copies on sale from May 25. Last year Kanneh-Mason’s debut recording made number one in the classical chart; could the royal wedding release do the same?

The groom had seen Kanneh-Mason play at a charity event in London and was impressed

For many classical musos, spring is marked by one thing: the unveiling of the Proms programme. As we had decamped to London’s Imperial War Museum for this year’s press launch, there was an inevitability that the centenary of the end of the First World War would feature in this new season. Indeed, the opening night (July 13) features two works completed in 1918 – Toward the Unknown Region (Vaughan Williams) and The Planets (Holst), paired with a new work by Anna Meredith. Five Telegrams, inspired by correspondence sent by young soldiers from the trenches, will be performed outside the Royal Albert Hall, with specially commissioned digital images projected on to the building.

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This year’s Proms also celebrates music by Debussy, Hubert Parry (who wrote Proms staple Jerusalem, a Last Night favourite), and Lili Boulanger, all of whom died in 1918, and Leonard Bernstein, who was born in the same year. Thrillingly, there is a generous peppering of contemporary works throughout this season, with more female composers featured than usual. This development is part of the Proms’ recent pledge to have a 50-50 gender balance in its contemporary programming by 2022, a decision that has been both praised and derided. Roxanna Panufnik has received the coveted Last Night commission, meaning that women composers will both open and close the season – a clear two-finger salute to those who protest ‘identity politics’. What better way to artistically commemorate parliament’s 1918 decision to grant the vote to (some) women.

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