It’s not only Santa bringing presents on Christmas: Kate Middleton gifted Britain with pretty decent piano skills, televised to a national audience.
The Duchess of Cambridge sat down at a keyboard lit with candles for her first public musical performance at the “Royal Carols: Together at Christmas” concert at Westminster Abbey. Recorded on Dec. 8 and airing on ITV Friday, Kate played piano alongside backup singers and a string section while Scottish singer/songwriter Tom Walker sang his holiday ballad “For Those Who Can’t Be Here.”
“She picked it up so well,” Walker told the BBC. “It’s really not easy to go from not playing with other musicians for like 10 years to jumping straight in with like a whole band you’ve never met and camera crews doing live takes. … She’s very talented.”
Duchess Kate’s Christmas message: Kindness, royal carols help banish pandemic bleakness
Walker had performed at a charity event attended by Kate, and when asked to play at the carol service he offered to perform a song the public hadn’t yet heard.
“So I sent it over to the team and they absolutely loved it, and then a week later they came back and said ‘Um, would it be alright if the duchess played along with you?’ ” he recalled. “And I was like ‘What?’ “
The hour-long special also featured Leona Lewis performing “O Holy Night,” Ellie Goulding singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Harry Potter” star Tom Felton reading a holiday letter.
The duchess introduced the broadcast with a celebratory message of goodwill and kindness to help navigate a “bleak” pandemic era.
“We’ve seen so many challenges. We’ve lost our loved ones. We’ve seen our frontline workers under immense pressure. And also we’ve been more emotionally and socially distanced and isolated from each other,” Kate said. “But I suppose through that separation, we’ve also realized how much we need each other and how acts of kindness and love can really bring us comfort and relief in times of distress.”
Duchess Kate, who stood out at the service in a Christmas red dress by Catherine Walker and a stunning pair of diamond and sapphire earrings, talked about how “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.”
English TV personality Piers Morgan, who often criticizes Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, lauded Kate’s performance as “very cool – and very ballsy!” on Twitter and also shared a picture from the special with the caption “A proper Duchess.”
Kensington Palace said Kate’s introduction was recorded the day before the concert during her visit to the Abbey to help with preparations, including decorating Christmas trees donated by Queen Elizabeth II from Windsor Great Park and arranging wreaths donated by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Christmas turned out to be as restricted in 2021 as it was in 2020, thanks to a surge in the omicron variant. The queen’s annual pre-Christmas lunch for her extended family was canceled, as was the traditional trip to her Sandringham estate in Norfolk for the holidays. Instead, the queen spent her first Christmas since the April death of Prince Philip, her husband of seven decades, at Windsor Castle.
The queen’s daughter Princess Anne wasn’t in attendance at Windsor Castle on Christmas, because her husband tested positive for COVID-19.
Contributing: Maria Puente, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Duchess Kate plays piano with Tom Walker at Christmas Eve concert