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Two years ago, Sheku Kanneh-Mason was performing at a royal wedding in Windsor Castle, watched by a global audience in the hundreds of millions. This summer, he’s playing his cello in the front hallway of his family’s Nottingham home, with occasional interruptions from the Amazon delivery man. Welcome to planet Earth in 2020.
He’s not alone, though: all six of Kenu’s equally gifted siblings have spent the summer in lockdown with him, along with mum Kadie, dad Stuart and – because you can never have too many musicians in the Kanneh-Mason household – a young classical guitar scholar called Plinio, who didn’t manage to get home to Brazil. As Alan Yentob, zooming in from his laptop for this Imagine film, observed: “It’s not exactly self-isolating.”
They really are an extraordinary brood, this musical magnificent seven, whose number includes no fewer than four BBC Young Musician of the Year finalists (Isata, Braimah, Jeneba and Sheku, who won it in 2016). All day, the house rings to the sound of Shostakovich, Rachmaninov and Bob Marley (no elitist snobbery here), with the siblings playing violins, cellos or hammering away at one of the family’s four pianos in every available space, including the bathroom.
Isata, 24, and her sister Jeneba, 17, have spent the summer “doing a project to learn all the Chopin Eludes”, which is slightly mortifying for those of us whose kids have spent all their spare time playing Fortnite. They’ve also been serenading the street during the Clap for Carers, joined by the girl from next door on the clarinet. (Yes, even the neighbours are musical. Just as well, I suppose.)
“Music is such a great way of explaining everyday life in a way that words can’t,” said Jeneba. Though, as that sentence testifies, when the siblings do talk, their words are as thoughtful and articulate as their playing. Above all, they are a family who seem to radiate joy, even when when playing an instrument as mournful as the cello. No wonder Plinio looked so happy: there have got to be worse places to sit out a pandemic.
THE RISE OF THE MURDOCH DYNASTY
For anyone suffering Succession withdrawal symptoms, the true story of the world’s most powerful media mogul – and the battle to inherit his crown – is every bit as gripping. Among the talking heads in this week’s opening salvo were Piers Morgan (big fan), Hugh Grant (not so much) and Alastair Campbell, candidly describing New Labour’s cosy relationship with the Murdoch empire as “dancing with the devil”. Nigel Farage also put in an appearance – but, he admitted, only after getting RM’s permission first. Hmmm.
THERE SHE GOES
Shaun Pye and Sarah Crawford’s comedy drama, based on their own experience of parenting a child with learning disabilities, has been promoted from BBC4 for its second run, with Simon and Emily (David Tennant and a Bafta-winning Jessica Hynes) still raising daughter Rosie with a mix of love, stoicism and cynical humour, punctuated by bouts of despair and sudden bursts of joy. Despite never sugar-coating the exhausting daily reality, the result is both funny and quietly uplifting.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, July 16 2020 (c) Waitrose Weekend