Shekku Kanneh-Mason’s cello performance at Harry and Meghan’s Royal Wedding was nothing short of a sensation.
Within hours of the 19-year-old’s performance, news sites around the world were publishing headlines hailing him as ‘the star of the royal wedding’ and sales of his debut album catapulted him to the number one spot on iTunes.
But it’s not only the tabloids and charts that are going gaga for wedding cellists. Brides and grooms across the UK are looking for wedding cellists, inspired by Harry and Meghan’s music choices.
Here at Encore, the UK’s largest supplier of live musicians, we’ve helped thousands of brides and grooms choose their wedding music and understand exactly how a cellist can completely transform a wedding ceremony.
In this guide, we’ll outline exactly how you too can book a wedding cellist fit for a (future) king – without paying a princely sum.
Taking Inspiration from the Royal Wedding Cellist
Sheku Kanneh-Mason performed a trio of moving pieces for cello at Harry and Meghan’s wedding:
- “Ave Maria” by Franz Schubert,
- “Après un rêve” by Gabriel Fauré
- “Sicilienne” by Maria Theresia von Paradis
You can read more about the music at the Royal Wedding in our article Music at the Royal Wedding: Everything You Need to Know (2018), and you can hear more about Shekku’s experience first-hand on people.com here.
Unfortunately, Sheku isn’t available to perform at weddings and after his royal success, his fees are likely to be in the range of six-figures.
Fortunately, we’re here to provide you with a range of alternatives!
Solo Wedding Cellist
Prices from £160 (book now)
Suitable for: wedding ceremony
Solo cellists, when performing by themselves, can either perform unaccompanied or with backing tracks.
Unaccompanied, with a pianist, or with backing tracks?
When speaking to Encore’s wedding cellists, the general consensus was that classical music worked well for unaccompanied cellists, and that pop songs required backing tracks or an accompanist on the piano or harp.
Here’s what Encore cellist Lucy Andrews had to say:
“Most of the cello gigs I do are with a pianist, but I have also played unaccompanied and with a backing track. I would say that cello on it’s own is quite limited so I usually suggest accompaniment of some sort!”
Fionnuala Donnelly Schmidt said:
“These days brides and grooms tend to go for more popular modern pieces. From Elbow to Adele, Eva Cassidy or even Ed Sheeran. It’s not a problem except that it can sound bare on Solo Cello do I would use a backing track.”
Here’s Hannah Thomas’ take on the matter:
“I typically play solo cello without backing track or piano. Usually couples are not quite sure of what the cello can play and they leave it in my hands to choose. It is important to remember that if you are booking a cellist that is purely solo with no accompaniment then the pieces will be more restricted to just the melody and occasionally some accompaniment but it sounds just as beautiful.”
Popular Music for Solo Wedding Cellists
A popular choice for unaccompanied cello is music from Bach’s Cello Suites. You’ll probably recognise the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No.1, performed here by Sheku Kanneh-Mason:
Popular Wedding Cellist Repertoire
We surveyed our top wedding cellists on the Encore platform and asked them which pieces were most popular requested by wedding couples.
There were two very clear favourites.
- Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major (video above)
- This was mentioned by nearly every cellist we spoke to.
- Thousand Years by Cristina Perry
- This was mentioned by over half of the cellists we spoke to.
Here are the most popular requests for wedding cellists, categorised by genre:
Most-Requested Classical Repertoire for Wedding Cellists
- Bach – Unaccompanied Cello Suites
- Pachelbel – Canon
- Saint-Saens – The Swan
- Bach – Air on a G String
- Bach – Ave Maria
- Schubert – Ave Maria
- Paradis – Sicilienne (popularised by Sheku Kanneh-Mason at the Royal Wedding)
- Mendelssohn – Song Without Words
- Wagner – Bridal Chorus
- Mendelssohn – Wedding March
- Kosikova – Wedding March
- Handel – Passacaglia
- Bach – Arioso
- Ennio Morricone – Gabriel’s Oboe
Most-Requested Pop Songs for Wedding Cellists
- Cristina Perry – Thousand Years
- Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud, Photograph, Kiss Me
- John Legend – All of Me
- The Beatles – All You Need Is Love
- Adele – Make You Feel My Love, When We Were Young
- The Beatles – Yesterday
- George Michael – Careless Whisper
- Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
- Lionel Richie – Stuck On You
- The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun
- Elbow – One Day Like This
- Eva Cassidy – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
- Beyoncé – Halo
- Ben E. King – Stand By Me
- Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
And one song that is becoming surprisingly popular is the Game of Thrones theme!
When choosing music for signing the register, we recommend choosing some music that can easily be repeated. Here’s some great advice from Encore cellist, Jon Fistein:
“I probably shouldn’t say it, but the unaccompanied Bach Cello Suites are very handy for the signing in particular: you can pick movements and repeats to suit the number of photographs that are taken.”
Cellist with Piano Accompanist
Prices from £320 (book now)
Suitable for: Wedding Ceremony, Drinks Reception
Adding a piano accompaniment to your cello performance increases the range of songs and repertoire that you can choose from. The piano is an extremely versatile instrument with a wide range of highs and lows, so you can expect a wider variety of sounds from this setup.
A small number of people out there really don’t like hearing musicians perform with backing tracks, as they it sounds “fake”. If you think that any of your guests are likely to be vaguely snobby about music, then we recommend investing in a piano accompanist to keep them happy!
Cello Duo (2x cellos)
Prices from £320 (book now)
One of the most famous cello duos are 2CELLOS. We’ve included a video below.
2CELLOS perform everything from pop ballads to heavy metal to dazzling classical showpieces. Here they are playing one of the songs I mentioned earlier: “Perfect”, by Ed Sheeran.
The sound of two cellos is truly beautiful, but you can never have too much of a good thing. This leads me nicely onto cello quartets…
Prices from £640 (book now)
If you’ve been to a wedding before, you’ve probably seen a string quartet performing. The string quartet is the most popular classical ensemble as far as wedding music is concerned.
The cello quartet, by contrast, is a rarity at weddings, and booking one is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on your guests.
Cello accompanied by 16-piece String Orchestra
Prices from £2730 (book now)
Popular orchestra sizes:
- Cello accompanied by 8-piece String Orchestra (Prices from £1440)
- Cello accompanied by 32-piece Chamber Orchestra (Prices from £5280)
We hope you’ve found this guide helpful! If you’re feeling inspired and ready to book a cellist for your own wedding, simply click here to begin your enquiry with Encore. You’ll be matched with available and local cellists within your budget, and our team are on-hand to answer any questions you may have.
Looking for more advice on booking wedding musicians? We’ve written plenty of handy guides:
- Booking Wedding Musicians: Honest Advice from 35 couples who have done it already
- 7 most common stresses of booking musicians and how to avoid them
- Wedding Planning: Music At Your Wedding & Where To Start
- Wedding Planning: A Wedding Day Timeline With Music
- Orchestra Booking Guide: How to Hire an Orchestra for your Event
Thank you so much to the following cellists for their advice and insight included in this article:
Rebecca Rose, Fiona Hedges, Anna Free, Frantisek Brikcius, Carys Hall, Jon Fistein, Faye Clinton, Matthew Moore, Francesca Ter-Berg, Lidia Alonso, Lucy Andrews, Fionnuala Donnelly Schmidt, Lydia Dobson, Louise Dearsley, Julianna Antczak, Jo Warren, Sophie Cheng, Hannah Thomas, James Tradgett