Royal wedding cellist gets a gong

Royal wedding cellist gets a gong


norman lebrecht

December 28, 2019

The New Year’s Honours List in the UK contains taps on the shoulder for Sheku Kanneh-Mason, 20, the cellist who played at the Harry and Meghan wedding. He gets made an MBE (Member of the British Empire).

Also honoured are composers Judith Bingham (OBE) and Helen Grime (MBE).

The former BBC executive Humphrey Burton is knighted.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director Timothy Walker was made CBE.




  • John Rook says:

    That puts him on a level with the 1966 World Cup winning team. Times have changed, have they not?

  • Adrian says:

    And congratuations to another British cellist receiving a New Year’s honour – David Strange, former principal cello of RPO and ROH and former Head of Strings at RAM. Richly deserved!

  • SMH says:

    Had a listen to his recent Carnegie Hall recital, and I have to say he sounded completely average. Grainy tone, pitchy intonation and nothing really special to say. Sounded like a pretty good graduate level cellist from a top conservatory or maybe a Curtis student. Don’t get his appeal.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      You don’t? Seriously?

    • operacentric says:

      Which is exactly what he is. Might develop into something special if he was left to complete his training and develop as an artist. But then he ticks all the PR and social media boxes – fronting the Southbank Centre publicity for example.

      • C Porumbescu says:

        He’s an undergraduate at the RAM. Last thing I heard he’s planning on studying for a good few years yet. Meanwhile he’s taking the gigs he’s offered, gradually developing his repertoire and abilities, and is using the publicity generated by his charisma and high public profile for wholly constructive ends.

        I don’t understand the problem. No reasonable person expects any artist to be fully-finished at 21. And there are things that are more important than merely producing note-perfect performances to order for jaded audiences, things that this honour recognises.

    • Mikhado says:

      Thank you. I couldn’t agree more. His recent Elgar performance from Frankfurt on YT is a mess, by far the slowest one I have ever heard.

  • Rob says:

    How patronising by the rotten establishment. I don’t think he needs confirming he has talent with all the hard work he has put in.

    I hope he hands it back and calls for the royal family to be disbanded.

    • Robin Smith says:

      The “establishment” offer the award before it is announced. You can refuse it before the announcement is made and there is no reason for the refusal to ever be made public.

  • Caranome says:

    True achievement and talent and contribution have been cheapened over celebrity status, flash and minority promotion in order to act hip. By this measure, Kim Kardashian should be KCBE at least.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Is he really that good already? Then Olivia Newton John & Elton John got the highest honours. If one is a serious artist these populist awards should not be taken too seriously, unlike Gramophone magazine awards for example. I support the Monarchy in Britain (how boring things would be if Britain was not a monarchy), but I do not take them seriously when it comes to culture, in spite of the valiant efforts of Prince Charles.

  • Jean Collen says:

    I have nothing against Sheku Kanneh-Mason but surely this award is rather premature?

    • Dragonetti says:

      Surely he was given the award as recognition of his promotion of music to a wider audience. And how about his giving a substantial donation to his old school to enable them to continue offering instrumental music tuition?
      His undoubted talent might well develop further but credit where it’s due to a great young man.

      • Zelda Macnamara says:

        “Credit where it’s due” – yes, I agree entirely. But the honours system has become so corrupt and meaningless, that it is an insult to be awarded one nowadays.

      • Guest Troll says:

        “promotion of music a wider audience”. Such as…the many minority group members now flocking to classical music concerts? He is a Black classical musician who has made a name for himself at a young age. If someone wants to give him an MBE, and MBA, or a ride on the MTA, he has every right to accept it.

    • Marj says:

      You took the words out of my mouth.

    • Nik says:

      At least he has already played some music. Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize simply for existing.

  • Robert von Bahr says:

    Utterly ridiculous! What has he done, except playing at a Royal wedding, a gig that every musician in UK would give an arm (well, perhaps not if you’re a cellist) and a leg for, and thereby got started on an international career? Not saying that he is bad – I simply don’t know enough – but giving him that honour, when he is hardly out of his teens, and bypassing people like Raphael Wallfisch, who really have done so much for the instrument and British music??? Or Carolyn Sampson, one of the finest musicians Britain has produced? This devaluates the honour and does it severely.

    • Adrienne says:

      ‘What has he done, except playing at a Royal wedding’

      It actually started with him winning BBC Young Musician of the Year. I would have voted for Ben Goldscheider, but he had the misfortune to be competing in 2016.

    • Melisande says:

      Perhaps the excellent soprano Carolyn Sampson as well as the excelent cellist Raphael Wallfisch refused the ‘honour’. We will never know.

    • Guest Troll says:

      Never heard of them.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Robert writes: “Utterly ridiculous!”

      He did not win for being able to play the cello better than anyone else. That is not how awards work.

  • Dave says:

    Errolyn Wallen also honoured

  • J says:

    So many sour grapes in the comments here!

  • Andrew says:

    I know a certain former cellist and now principal of a conservatoire that lobbies incessantly to get an honour every time and it never happens. I wonder how it feels seeing this kid just got one!