Duchess of Cambridge gives first public piano performance in Christmas Eve broadcast

24 December 2021, 23:19 | Updated: 24 December 2021, 23:32

The Duchess of Cambridge & Tom Walker - 'For Those Who Can't Be Here' @ Westminster Abbey

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

A young Kate Middleton grew up learning music – and on Christmas Eve 2021, she took centre stage at a special Christmas Eve carol service from Westminster Abbey.

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The Duchess of Cambridge has revealed her musical abilities to the nation, making a debut public performance at the piano in a carol service at Westminster Abbey (watch above).

Early in Christmas Eve, a cryptic video with no sound (below) was posted to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s social media channels, showing the Duchess taking a seat at the piano with her back to the camera.

Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton teases piano performance on ITV show Royal Carols: Together At Christmas

The Duchess then followed it up with a performance at the piano, accompanying singer-songwriter Tom Walker in For Those Who Can’t Be Here.

Royal Carols: Together At Christmas, was a one-hour TV special dedicated to the ‘unsung heroes’ who went above and beyond to support others during the pandemic, broadcast on Christmas Eve on ITV, at 7.30pm.

During the service, the Duchess of Cambridge paid tribute to “inspirational” people who have served their communities during the “bleak time” of the pandemic.

Carols were also sung by the Westminster Abbey choir, with readings from the Duke of Cambridge, British Paralympian and junior doctor Kim Daybell, actor Tom Felton, presenter Kate Garraway, and poet and writer Lemn Sissay.

Read more: The Duchess of Cambridge is a former pianist with a solid grade 5 music theory

Kate Middleton to play piano in Westminster Abbey carol service
Kate Middleton to play piano in Westminster Abbey carol service. Picture: Kensington Royal/Twitter

When did Kate Middleton learn to play piano?

The Duchess played piano as a child, before shifting her musical ambitions to the flute, and singing.

Ahead of her wedding to the Duke of Cambridge in 2011, her former teacher Daniel Nicholls revealed that he taught the 88 keys to the wider Middleton family, too.

“Kate came for lessons when she was about 10 or 11, until she was 13, about 1993 to 95,” he said. “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.”

Kate Middleton plays piano in Westminster Abbey carol service
Kate Middleton plays piano in Westminster Abbey carol service. Picture: YouTube / Tom Walker

He added: “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.”

At secondary school, Kate reportedly played in a chamber orchestra and senior flute group, named the Tootie-Flooties, alongside Pippa. Adding to her instrumental studies, Kate achieved Grade 5 in singing and music theory. Friends have also said she was a deputy head chorister in the chapel choir.

The pandemic, it appears, presented an opportunity for the Duchess to sit back down at her childhood instrument to tickle the ivories once more.

Prince William and Kate Middleton visit the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra in 2017

What performances were there at the Christmas Eve carol concert?

Alongside the Duchess’s piano debut, there were performances from singers Leona Lewis and Ellie Goulding in the pre-recorded service. Royal Carols: Together At Christmas also featured a premiere performance of poet and writer Lemn Sissay’s ‘To the Day’, a special piece composed for the service.

The audience was filled with around 1,200 ‘unsung heroes’, who were invited by the Duchess in recognition of their ‘inspirational’ efforts during the pandemic.

“In the congregation tonight we’ve got many inspirational individuals,” said the Duchess, who devised the night’s service. “We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for all they’ve done in bringing people together and supporting their communities.

“Tonight, we’re going to hear so many wonderful carols. Music was so important to me during the pandemic as I think it was to so many people too. 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.”

In an interview, the Duchess added that the pandemic had shown the “importance of simply being together” as she described the “heart-wrenching isolation from those we hold most dear”.

“But through that separation, we’ve also realised how much we need each other and how acts of kindness and love can really bring us comfort and relief in times of distress.”