‘Walking in the Air’ from The Snowman: the composer and story behind Aled Jones’s hit

6 December 2019, 13:54 | Updated: 6 December 2019, 13:56

By Helena Asprou

Here’s everything you need to know about this festive film and its enchanting soundtrack famously performed by Aled Jones

It’s been around for decades and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without it. That’s right, we’re talking about The Snowman – but exactly how much do you know about the story and its music?

Created by Raymond Briggs and first published in 1978, this festive tale originally started out as a wordless picture book.

Its delightful sketches tell the story of James, a young boy so excited by the snow that he runs outside to build a snowman – but little does he know that his chilly friend will come to life at midnight.

Final Rehearsals For Birmingham Repertory's Production Of The Snowman
Final Rehearsals For Birmingham Repertory's Production Of The Snowman. Picture: Getty

James and the Snowman quickly form a friendship, spending the rest of the morning playing with toys and inventing games – but with James’ parents fast asleep, they have to be quiet!

Then, the Snowman takes the boy on a flying adventure which, in the TV adaptation includes meeting Father Christmas, going for a ride on a motorbike and flying into the aurora borealis of Norway, before returning home to Brighton.

But in both versions there’s a sad ending to the tale. By the following morning, James’ snowy new friend has melted, perhaps conjuring up feelings of nostalgia that childhood often passes us by too swiftly.

What makes the TV adaptation of The Snowman so special?

With Briggs’ book proving popular with readers, Dianne Jackson reworked The Snowman into a half-hour film for television in 1982 and it became an instant hit.

Produced by John Coates and broadcast on Channel 4 on December 26, this charming animated film tells James’ story using words for the very first time and it’s made all the more enchanting by Howard Blake’s music.

Now 80, the English composer, conductor and pianist has become well known for his concertos, ballets and operas – and has produced more than 650 works.

Performed by the Sinfonia of London, his stunning orchestral score for The Snowman adds a real sense of magic to the tale and ‘Walking in the Air’ is just as loved by audiences today as it was back then.

Originally sung by boy soprano Peter Auty – a St. Paul’s Cathedral choirboy – at the tender age of 13, the singing on this beautiful track is one of the defining features of the film.

The song was later released as a single in 1985 by Classic FM presenter Aled Jones, then aged just 15.

Since its debut, The Snowman has won a BAFTA TV Award and was voted #4 in UKTV Gold’s Greatest TV Christmas Moments.