Queen’s funeral choirboy, 11, is son of actress and won praise for role in Oscar Wilde stage show

EXCLUSIVE: Choirboy, 11, who earned a legion of fans with his ‘earnest’ singing at the Queen’s funeral is the son of an actress and won praise for his role in Oscar Wilde stage show

A choirboy who earned a legion of fans with his ‘earnest’ performance at the Queen‘s funeral is the son of an actress and previously won praise for his role in an Oscar Wilde stage show, it was revealed today. 

Eleven-year-old Westminster Abbey chorister Barnaby Scholes’ animated singing and unruly mop of red hair caught the imagination of social media users, with one describing him as having ‘time travelled from the Victorian era’.

His aunt, Catherine Scholes, also tweeted her support from her home 3,500 miles away in Ontario, Canada, saying: ‘So proud of you, Barnaby!’

And it’s not the first time Barnaby has been singled out for his talents, MailOnline can reveal, after the treble last year played the part of The Child in a Youth Opera production of The Selfish Giant.

A review in The Times picked him out for praise, saying: ‘While I wish that the Child’s role could be even bigger, given it’s a family show, Barnaby Scholes sings with a lovely purity.’

Barnaby, who is the elder of two brothers, lives with his parents, Peter and Catherine – an actress with the stage-name Cathy Burke – near Henley, Oxfordshire.

Social media users have heaped praised on the auburn-haired choirboy who has been pictured singing his heart out during the Queen's state funeral

Social media users have heaped praised on the auburn-haired choirboy who has been pictured singing his heart out during the Queen’s state funeral

Young Barnaby Scholes (second-right) was seen swaying back and forth as he sang passionately

Young Barnaby Scholes (second-right) was seen swaying back and forth as he sang passionately

Users online commented how the small singer was putting in his 'heart and soul' into the performance

Users online commented how the small singer was putting in his ‘heart and soul’ into the performance

Throughout the moving service to celebrate the life of Queen Elizabeth II, the boys of Westminster Abbey Choir School sang hymns and psalms as well as the National Anthem.

As the Queen’s coffin was carried inside the 753-year-old abbey in central London, the young choristers sang lines, known as The Sentences, from Revelation 14:13, used at every state funeral since the early 18th century.

And while many praised the choir’s performance throughout the service, social media users picked out Barnaby in particular.

He could be seen singing his heart out during the Psalm 42: 1-7 during the service, moving expressively as the choral music filled the abbey.

One social media user said: ‘The little red-headed choirboy has stolen my heart with his earnestness.’

Another described the chorister as a ‘superstar’ while others praised his ‘theatrical performance’.

One user tweeted that they aren’t a fan of prayer and choirs, but that the ‘ginger kid’ was ‘living his best life’.

The Choir of Westminster Abbey is renowned worldwide and comprises of up to thirty boys and twelve professional adult singers, known as Lay Vicars.

Barnaby’s mother Catherine – an actress with the stage-name Cathy Burke – appeared in the local newspaper last year describing how she patrols the woodland near their home picking up litter.

‘Really, I’m doing it for my children,’ she told the Henley Standard. ‘You want to think you have left the planet in a good state and haven’t completely trashed it. We are only custodians.

‘I just feel it is everyone’s responsibility to help even in a little way or just by being a responsible citizen in the first place. If everyone plays a small part, collectively it will make a big difference.

‘We are very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place and it’s just so saddening when you see other countries manage litter much better than us.’

Cathy Burke, mother of choirboy Barnaby Scholes

Peter Scholes, father of choirboy Barnaby Scholes

Barnaby, who is the elder of two brothers, lives with his parents, Peter and Catherine near Henley, Oxon, where his mother, who is an actress with the stage-name Cathy Burke, appeared in the local newspaper last year describing how she patrols the woodland near their home picking up litter

Many praised the choir's performance throughout the service,  but social media users were particularly impressed with the auburn-haired choirboy

Many praised the choir’s performance throughout the service,  but social media users were particularly impressed with the auburn-haired choirboy

Mr Scholes, business giant Invesco’s head of tax for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: ‘I’ve been astonished by the amount of litter that she has picked up.’

The couple have been married since 2007 and Barnaby’s brother Edward, eight, also attends the Abbey Choir School.

Before having her children, Mrs Burke spent 12 years as a singer and actress.

She appeared in pantomimes, portrayed Grace Farrell in a production of Annie and performed with Mid Wales Opera.

During lockdown in 2020, the family grew vegetables and sold saplings to neighbours, raising £100 for the Friends of Kipkelion, a charity that supports people in Kenya by funding clean water, sanitation and healthcare projects.

Mr Scholes was a founding trustee when the charity was established in 2010.

Author and music critic Jessica Duchen, who wrote the libretto for The Selfish Giant, and watched Barnaby reprise his role as The Child with Opera North in Leeds in August 2022, also heaped praise on his ‘incredible performance’.

She told MailOnline: ‘He has such confidence and is the complete professional, despite only being 11 years old.

‘He’s also a really nice, boy – perceptive and clearly very bright. It was wonderful to see him appearing at such a big occasion yesterday.

‘I have no idea what his future holds, but many of the boys from the Westminster Abbey Choir School do go on to become professional musicians and singers.

‘I saw him sing the same role in The Selfish Giant the previous year and it was remarkable how much he’d come on in just 12 months or so.

‘Barnaby’s younger brother, Edward, is also now in the Westminster Abbey choir. He was in an opera project at Garsington this summer ‘Dalia’ by Roxanna Panufnik and me.’

Westminster Abbey Choir School was contacted by MailOnline.

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