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kate middleton delights fans with surprise piano performance: ‘remembering those who cannot be with us’ at Westminster Abbey




The Duchess of Cambridge gave millions of Britons a Christmas treat on TV tonight as she played the piano to accompany singer Tom Walker with a poignant song performed by candlelight at Westminster Abbey. Kate, who has tickled the ivories since she was a child, recorded the song with Walker in the Chapter House of the Abbey, one day before a community carol service on December 8 which was shown on ITV this evening.



They played his Christmas single ‘For Those Who Can’t Be Here’ together, after the Duchess had the idea for the performance following a meeting with Walker when she heard him play at a charity function in October. At that event for The Forward Trust, a London-based charity that helps people with drug and alcohol dependence, Walker played ‘Leave a Light On’ – a song about the struggles of those experiencing addiction.



And the 30-year-old singer was then approached to play for the carol service, with Kate, 39, having come up with the idea of accompanying him on the piano after music brought ‘great comfort’ to her during the lockdowns. The Duchess was said to be ‘quite nervous’ during her first rehearsal ‘because she hadn’t played with anothermusician in a very long time’, reported Mirror Online.



Walker said the pair had to sit on opposite sides of the room to practice the emotional performance due to Covid. He told MailOnline the whole plan was ‘very, very secret’, adding that they were both scared of messing things up. While Kate has played the piano since childhood, the type she was practicing on, which would be the same one used in the performance, was different to hers at home, so she had to get used to it, revealed Walker.



He said: ‘We rehearsed the song like nine times and by the end of it she’d absolutely nailed it, and then she went away for a couple of days and practised it, and then we finally got to do the recording of it.’ He added: ‘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 – she smashed it.’



The song was written by Walker for ‘anyone raising a glass around the table remembering those who can’t be with us’ this festive season – as hundreds of thousands of people are set to spend Christmas Day in self-isolation with Covid-19, while others think of members of their family and friends they have lost to the virus or other causes. Walker described the Duchess as a ‘lovely, kind and warm hearted person’ and praised her for having ‘absolutely smashed’ the performance, adding that it was a ‘crazy pinch yourself kind of day’ for him.



He also praised Kate for being an ‘amazing musician’ and said that although she was quite nervous when they first rehearsed in a studio, she went away and ‘invested a lot of time and energy into getting it right’. Walker gave the Duchess a backing track to practise with before the performance and said he was ‘shocked at how much better she was’ when it came to the actual show, which left him ‘really impressed.’



Explaining that his mother had a ‘total freak out’, he said: ‘It was truly an honour playing alongside The Duchess for Royal Carols: Together At Christmas. Without doubt, it was a once in a lifetime experience. ‘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 and 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, to be in such a beautiful venue playing alongside The Duchess with my band and a string quartet. ‘I certainly won’t forget that in a hurry. My mum had a total freak out when she saw it on the telly.



‘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.’ The performance formed part of the Royal Carols: Together At Christmas event which was held by Kate as a thank you to the people who have supported their communities during the pandemic.



A royal source said: ‘The idea for the performance was the Duchess’. She was impressed by Tom when she met him and heard him play Leave a Light On – a song about the struggles of those experiencing addiction, an issue which as you know, she is passionate about – at a Forward Trust event in October.



‘He was approached to play at the service, and his Christmas song, For Those Who Can’t Be Here, which has such pertinence for so many this year, also struck a chord with the Duchess who came up with the idea of accompanying Tom on the piano. ‘She has played the piano since she was a child. ‘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 Duchess is set to spend the festive weekend with her husband Prince William and children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis at their Norfolk residence of Anmer Hall. Walker spoke to MailOnline earlier today, saying that he had just returning home to his family for Christmas with his fiancée Annie Watson-Foulds, with whom he has been quarantining with for nine days because she contracted Covid-19.



He said he tested himself daily and did not catch the virus from her, and after she had her second negative test in consecutive days yesterday, it meant they could travel in time to be with family on Christmas Day – and Walker admitted: ‘I’m so happy to be home with my family.’ Asked how the performance with Kate came about, he said: ‘I’ve met the Duchess a couple of times at various different charity events and the last one we did together was for Action on Addiction, and she gave a speech at that particular one and I sang my song Leave A Light On and performed it live.


Kate Middleton smiles
‘Afterwards she got in touch with me and my team and said would you mind performing this live at the carol service? And I said absolutely no problem, but I’ve actually written a Christmas song this year that nobody’s heard yet, I’ll send it over, why don’t you listen to that because it might be more suitable for the service?



‘Anyway, she heard the song and absolutely loved it and asked if I could come down and perform that. And then about a week later, her team got in touch and said she was really keen to play the piano on the song.’I didn’t even know she played piano. I was a bit like this is crazy, but absolutely, that would be wicked. We arranged a rehearsal together. It was very secret, very secret – even the studio didn’t know what was going on.



‘We were sitting on opposite sides of the room for Covid, rehearsing. We rehearsed the song like nine times and by the end of it she’d absolutely nailed it, and then she went away for a couple of days and practised it, and then we finally got to do the recording of it. ‘And I was really impressed because it’s one thing playing along with me in a studio, just the two of us, but then to jump straight in to playing with a live string quartet and a pianist and two backing singers, all of which she’d never met before, and then doing live takes in front of the camera – that’s a whole other jump from jamming.


Prince William appeared to tell Kate Middleton
‘She absolutely nailed it and I was so surprised at how great she was at keeping time, because she had to start the song off and lead it. Amazing musician and what an amazing day, it was crazy.’ Walker added that when he has been at events with Kate before it had been at a ‘charity event that the royals are backing, so I’m kind of in their space and their domain’. But he continued: ‘With the music side of it, we’re kind of on even terms here because you’ve never played with other musicians for the last ten years, and then jumping straight into this. And then obviously I’m doing the carol service.



‘So 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 – she smashed it. ‘What a talented, kind, warm-hearted, lovely person. She’s very chilled, very nice and she was so kind to everybody who was there – personally introduced herself to the whole band. It was just lovely. A big moment for me in my career.’ Asked about the song, Walker explained: ‘Well very sadly in the first pandemic we lost my grandfather. It was really tough, because we couldn’t get up to see him, we couldn’t be by his side, we didn’t get to say goodbye.



‘It was tough for the whole family but it was especially tough for my mum because it was her dad. And the whole basis of the song is every year around the table my grandmother will raise a glass and say ‘this is for those who can’t be here this year, let’s take a little moment to remember them’. ‘And I was just thinking about how that moment was going to be for my mum for the very first time around the dinner table at Christmas without her dad, because he came every year for Christmas without fail. So that’s what the whole song’s about.’


kate and meghan
He was also asked about whether Kate had spoken about Prince Philip, given the Queen is spending her first Christmas as a widow after her beloved husband died aged 99 in April. Walker said: ‘The Duchess didn’t specifically say. She said she loved the lyrics – but she didn’t lead onto it being about that, but I think just everybody has lost somebody in their lives at some point and Christmas is the time to remember people who aren’t around who you used to have really fond memories of and still do, but you can’t reminisce with them in person. So I think that’s why she connected with the lyrics.’ Speaking about what Kate was like to be around, he continued: ‘She was just so nice. I think the first rehearsal we did she was quite nervous because she hadn’t played with another musician in a very long time and she’s got a piano at home but the one that we’d rented in for the day was going to be the same one we were using for the actual service.



‘It was completely different to hers, so she was trying to get the feel for that. She’s just lovely, really chilled out, very nice, seems really approachable and just really lovely. I was very nervous for the first five to ten minutes but I was all good after that.’ And as for the rehearsals, Walker said they spent about 90 minutes together and ran through the song nine times, adding it was ‘socially distanced of course, we made sure all the measures were followed where they could be’.



He continued: ‘And we just rehearsed it until she was like, right, I think I’ve kind of got it now. And I was like, well look, I tell you what we’ll send you a backing track that’s like the song but without the piano and a click track, and you can just play along to that and see how you get on.



‘When she turned up for the actual performance, you could really tell she’d gone to town practising because I was shocked at how much better she was. 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.’



Asked if she mentioned about doing more music in the future, Walker joked: ‘Well, we’re working on the album! No, she didn’t mention anything else about that, but I never thought I’d get a chance to play with a member of the Royal Family, so whatever comes after this I don’t think I’ll be too surprised. I’ll be opening up for her soon!’



Kensington Palace had released a teaser video on Instagram today of Kate walking up to a piano before taking a seat and beginning to play, although the clip was uploaded without any sound.Kate gained her grade three piano and grade five theory and she was given lessons by Daniel Nicholls until she was 13, but has never performed at a major public event such as this.



Mr Nicholls taught the Duchess to play the piano along with her mother Carole, sister Pippa, and brother James. Ahead of her wedding to William in 2011, Mr Nicholls told the BBC: ‘Kate came for lessons when she was about 10 or 11, until she was 13, about 1993 to 95. ‘She was absolutely lovely, a really delightful person to teach the piano.
‘I actually taught the whole family except Mike – Carole, Pippa and James, and again they were just absolutely lovely people, normal piano pupils.’



He added at the time: ‘I don’t think anyone would say she was going to be a concert pianist, but she was good at it, she always did everything she was told.’ After learning piano, Kate also turned to flute, which she played until the age of 18 in the school’s orchestra. She was also in a senior flute group called Tootie-Flooties with her sister Pippa. In a recorded introduction to the service, Kate paid tribute to the ‘inspirational’ people who have served their communities during the ‘bleak time’ of the pandemic.



Kate 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.’ The Duchess said the country had been through ‘such a bleak time’ and had faced ‘many challenges’, including the loss of loved ones, while frontline workers had been under ‘immense pressure’.



She added that while people had been ‘more emotionally and socially distanced and isolated from each other’, this separation had helped people to realise ‘how much we need each other’ and the importance of acts of kindness. The service was attended by those Kate and William had spent time with during recent engagements. Also in attendance were members of the armed forces involved in Operation Pitting to evacuate British nationals and eligible Afghans from Afghanistan.


Queen Elisabeth, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton
Others at the service were young carers, faith leaders and those who may have been more vulnerable or isolated during the pandemic. The service includes music from the Westminster Abbey choir, and singers Leona Lewis and Ellie Goulding. The Duke of Cambridge, British Paralympian and junior doctor Kim Daybell, actor Tom Felton and presenter Kate Garraway all gave readings. There was also a performance of To The Day, a special piece created for the service by poet and writer Lemn Sissay.

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