Who sang Walking in the Air in The Snowman? Singer, composer and lyrics of song, as author Raymond Briggs dies

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It’s a common misconception that Aled Jones sang the famous tune by Howard Blake in the original 1982 film, but that’s not actually the case

The Snowman is a 1982 short animated film based on the picture book of the same name by author and illustrator Raymond Briggs, who passed away at age 88 on Tuesday (9 August) morning. The film, which has become a Christmas classic after being aired each year on Channel 4, is best known for its iconic score.

This is what you need to know about the music behind The Snowman - and the voice that sang Walking in the Air.

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Who composed The Snowman?

Howard Blake is the composer behind The Snowman. The production team got in touch with Blake after having difficulties handling the music. According to Blake’s website, it was his idea to have the 26 minute film be dialogue free, instead featuring only his own music.

Blake and The Snowman were nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 1982. Howard has said that the massive success of The Snowman has been “both” a blessing and a curse.

“I get letters from people saying it has seen them through very bad times - and it’s marvellous that it’s still played by symphony orchestras everywhere from America to Japan,” Blake told the Guardian in 2013.

Howard Blake is the composer behind the iconic music of The Snowman (Photo: Howard Blake/Clive Barda)Howard Blake is the composer behind the iconic music of The Snowman (Photo: Howard Blake/Clive Barda)
Howard Blake is the composer behind the iconic music of The Snowman (Photo: Howard Blake/Clive Barda) | Howard Blake/Clive Barda

“But the downside is that people think I’ve never written anything else.”

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Aside from The Snowman, Blake has composed scores for films including An Elephant Called Slowly (1969), All the Way Up (1970), The Duellists (1977), Flash Gordon (1980), A Month in the Country (1987), The Bear (1998) and My Life so Far (1999).

He has also composed a number of concert works, such as the Piano Concerto that was commissioned by the Philharmonic Orchestra for Princess Diana’s 30th birthday in 1991, the cantata to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995 and the first recording of The Land of Counterpane, a song-cycle to words by Robert Louis Stevenson in 2007.

Who sang Walking in the Air?

While the majority of The Snowman is wordless, told entirely through pictures, movement and music, the one exception is that of the central song, called Walking in the Air. Walking in the Air, written by Blake, was sung by Peter Auty, a St Paul’s Cathedral choirboy, however it’s a common misconception that Welsh singer Aled Jones was the voice behind the song.

Auty, who at the time was 13, sang Walking in the Air for the 1982 film, and was paid £300 to do so - however his name was left out of the closing credits by producers in a rush to get the animated short completed. In 1985, Jones was selected by Blake to re-record the song as a Christmas single, appearing on Top of the Pops and shooting him to fame overnight. Auty couldn’t sing the new recording due to the fact that his voice had broken.

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The Snowman is aired every Christmas (Photo: Channel 4)The Snowman is aired every Christmas (Photo: Channel 4)
The Snowman is aired every Christmas (Photo: Channel 4) | Channel 4

The combination of Auty not being credited in the original film, and the strong association between the song and Jones led to the public belief that Jones had sung the original song in 1982. To mark the 20th anniversary of The Snowman, the producers created a new introduction to the film to give Auty his rightful credit.

Producer John Coates said: “We thought it was about time to set the record straight.”

At the time, Auty said: “It’s great to have my name on the film after all these years. I’m really pleased people will now recognise it was me. At the time it didn’t really bother me that everyone thought it was Aled. I was quite happy to be anonymous, but I think my mum and dad were quite miffed on my behalf.”

What are the lyrics to Walking in the Air?

These are the lyrics to Walking in the Air:

We’re walking in the airWe’re floating in the moonlit skyThe people far belowAre sleeping as we flyI’m holding very tightI’m riding in the midnight blueI’m finding I can flySo high above with you

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Far across the worldThe villages go by like dreamsThe rivers and the hillsThe forests and the streams

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Children gaze open-mouthedTaken by surpriseNobody down belowBelieves their eyes

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We’re surfing in the airWe’re swimming in the frozen skyWe’re drifting over icyMountains floating by

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Suddenly swooping lowOn an ocean deepRousing up a mighty monsterFrom his sleep

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We’re walking in the airWe’re dancing in the midnight skyAnd everyone who sees usGreets us as we fly

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