Talented brothers with a passion for music are back in the spotlight after featuring in The Princess of Wales’ carol service at Westminster Abbey. Henry and George Barnard, along with proud parents Paul and Claire, were nominated to attend by East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
Henry, ten, has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic condition that causes muscle weakness, and he and his family receive care and support at The Treehouse, in Ipswich.
In addition to lighting candles during the prestigious service, the Barnard family are set to feature in TV coverage of the event, being shown on ITV1 at 7.45pm on Christmas Eve.
Along with music therapist Ray Travasso, they were invited to London to be interviewed and tell their story – before receiving a surprise visit from The Princess of Wales. The TV crew also visited them at home in Woodbridge.
Henry said: “It was unbelievable, having the opportunity to light a candle in front of everyone and hopefully being on TV on Christmas Eve.
“One of the highlights of the day was meeting The Princess of Wales again and getting a wave from Prince Louis.”
George, 12, added: “It was a sensational experience and I enjoyed visiting and soaking up the history of Westminster Abbey.
“I’m delighted we were asked to light a candle during the service and it was brilliant to be part of such an important event.”
It completed a whirlwind few days for the brothers and Ray, who starred at EACH’s Happy Christmas Ipswich 4 show, at the town’s Regent theatre on 4th December.
Claire said: “The musical performances during the service were stunning and the Abbey looked beautifully festive. It was a huge honour to be invited and experience such a special occasion.
“We feel fortunate to have met so many kind and talented people over the past few weeks. It’s been a fun, humbling and truly memorable experience for which we’re extremely grateful.”
The Princess of Wales is EACH’s Royal Patron and the organisation was able to nominate others to attend her Westminster Abbey service.
The Barnards and Ray were joined by and long-serving caretaker Angelo Ragucci, who has worked at The Treehouse for the last 12 years.
In between Happy Christmas Ipswich and the Westminster Abbey service, Ray, who also lit a candle, celebrated his 50th birthday.
“What a week,” he said.
“Because we were lighting a candle, it meant we were there before everyone else and that added to the experience because we got to see and be part of the rehearsals. There was so much going on and we felt like VIPs.
“It was an amazing, incredible experience and we were so well looked after.
“The Princess came over and spoke to us all before making her official entrance.
“She came over and said ‘hello Henry, hello George’. She was so down to earth and very friendly.
“It was an unbelievable moment and, from a personal perspective, a huge honour to light one of the candles.
“While doing it, I thought of, remembered and gave thanks to all the children, families, staff, volunteers and supporters of EACH.”
Royal Carols: Together at Christmas saw the Westminster Abbey choir perform some of the nation’s most loved carols, alongside musical performances by guests including Jacob Collier, Freya Ridings and James Bay, in addition to a special duet from Beverley Knight and Adam Lambert.
There were also poignant readings by speakers including Prince William, Emma Willis, Roman Kemp, Jim Broadbent, Micheal Ward and Leonie Elliott.
The annual service recognises the selfless efforts of communities throughout the UK, highlighting the importance of coming together to support one another.
This year, the service was a heartfelt thank you to those supporting our youngest children during those crucial early years.
Children and families had the chance to pop cards and letters in a post box outside Westminster Abbey, for other children who may be struggling this Christmas.
More than 400 were collected and they were sent on to four charities, including EACH. The EACH batch was subsequently distributed via the care teams at The Nook, The Treehouse and Milton.
Pictures with The Princess of Wales: Kensington Palace