Duchess of Cambridge steps into limelight to show off piano skills revitalised during the pandemic

She is not known for enjoying the limelight, typically shying away from being centre of attention and, in her early days in the Royal Family, shaking with nerves when public speaking.

However, on Friday night, the Duchess of Cambridge broke that modest habit to take a star turn in a televised Christmas carol concert, playing the piano for the first time in public.

The Duchess, who learned the piano as a child and turned to it again during lockdown, accompanied singer Tom Walker for a moving festive performance in Westminster Abbey.

The song, For Those Who Can’t Be Here, is an emotional tribute to love and loss, mentioning a “first Christmas time without him by your side”.

The lyrics will be particularly resonant for the Royal Family, spending a first Christmas without the Duke of Edinburgh, as well as families across the country who have lost loved ones during the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Duchess and Mr Walker recorded the song in the Chapter House at Westminster Abbey a day before a carol service for 1,200 guests chosen for their contribution to their communities and country.

Music was said to be "very important" to the Duchess during multiple lockdowns

Finished in a “few takes” after an hour and a half of “very secret” socially-distanced rehearsal in London, the song was broadcast on ITV on Friday night amid twinkling Christmas lights and candles in a poignant service.

Walker said she had “gone to town” practising at home, playing along with a backing track, adding: “She really invested a lot of time and energy into getting it right and making sure that it was good, so I was really impressed – great musician.”

The Duchess’s appearance added “a little bit of extra sparkle” to the evening, said one source involved in the filming.

It had been her idea to offer to accompany Mr Walker after seeing him perform at an event in October, and hearing the sentiment of the Christmas single he sent to her before it was made public.

In an introduction to the carol concert, the Duchess spoke of the importance of music in helping to get through lockdown.

“Music was so important to me during the pandemic as I think it was to so many people too,” she said.

“But above all, it’s about celebrating the goodwill, the acts of kindness, love, empathy and compassion to help people come through these difficult times.”

A royal source added: “Music was very important to The Duchess during the lockdowns and playing the piano brought great comfort to her.

“She also recognises the powerful way in which music brings people together – especially during difficult times.

“For these reasons, she was keen to be part of Tom’s performance in this way.”

The young Kate Middleton learned piano as a child alongside her siblings. She is said to have reached grade five in music theory before going on to play the flute and perform with her school choir.

In an interview at the time of her wedding to Prince William in 2011, Daniel Nicholls, who taught her piano between the age of 11 and 13, conceded: “I don’t think she was ever going to be a concert pianist.”

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (L), Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (C) and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, take part in Royal Carols – Together At Christmas

Credit: Yui Mok/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Walker was a little more glowing in his praise, saying on Friday that it was “truly an honour” to play alongside the Duchess, who has a piano at home but told him she had not played with another musician in a “very long time”.

“I think we were both really nervous that it wasn’t going to go quite to plan and one of us would let down the other person or whatever, but she was absolutely fabulous,” he said.

“I thought she absolutely smashed the performance; it’s not easy to just jump behind a piano with a bunch of musicians you’ve never played with before and record live takes to camera, but she completely nailed it.

“She’s such a lovely, kind & warm-hearted person and she took the time to thank everyone personally for the opportunity to play together.

“It was a crazy ‘pinch yourself’ kind of day for me.”

He added: “I know this song will resonate with a lot of people this Christmas and my heart goes out to anyone raising a glass around the table remembering those who can’t be with us.”

Walker had performed a song about addiction at a Forward Trust event earlier this year, where the Duchess delivered a keynote speech on the same topic.

The performance was a surprise for viewers of Royal Carols: Together At Christmas when it aired on ITV on Christmas Eve.

Other musical performances and readings, including from the Duke of Cambridge, had been pre-recorded at a Westminster Abbey service earlier this month.

The congregation included vulnerable children and the elderly, carers, faith leaders, community volunteers, members of the Armed Forces and those who served others during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Duchess said: “We wanted to say a huge thank you to all those amazing people out there who have supported their communities.

“We also wanted to recognise those whose struggles perhaps have been less visible too.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *