The Snowman composer blasts the BBC’s ‘vile desecration’ of his work after producer created version with NO instruments to be aired on radio this Christmas
- Howard Blake said he threatened to withdraw his permission for audio remake
- But relented after being told new version had sparked interest from royal family
- Said removing instruments meant he ‘wouldn’t get any of the credit’ for remake
The composer of The Snowman has slammed the BBC’s ‘vile desecration’ of his work after it created a version without instruments to be aired on radio this Christmas.
Howard Blake said he threatened to withdraw his permission for a remake of the classic film after being told the broadcaster had recruited producer Jonathan Manners to replicate the sounds of instruments with a choir, a technique known as ‘vocalise’.
The 82-year-old believes the much loved story – which tells of a boy who made a snowman which comes to life – cannot be properly told without instrumental accompaniment.
Howard Blake said he threatened to withdraw his permission for a remake of the classic film after being told the broadcaster had recruited producer Jonathan Manners to replicate the sounds of instruments with a choir, a technique known as ‘vocalise’
He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘This lad [Mr Manners] is really trying to make a name for himself but I have told him: ”What you have done to my music is a desecration, it is absolutely vile.”’
Mr Blake said he was originally approached by Mr Manners last August, who told him he wanted to swap out instruments for ‘vocalise’ after hearing a choir sing Walking in the Air at St Albans Cathedral.
Initially the composer refused, but relented when he was told the new arrangement had sparked interest from the royal family.
‘When I refused, Jonathan told me, ”It’s very difficult, I’ve already told Prince Charles and the Queen about it” – how could I refuse?’.
Raging, he added: ‘They might be re-imagining my work at Christmas… but they still aren’t actually working with me – it will be producer Jonathan Manners who will be arranging The Snowman in vocalise. He’ll be the one who will get the credit for arranging it, not me’.
The new show will air on Radio 3 on Christmas Eve at 7.30pm and on Radio 4 at 1.30pm on Christmas Day, with Stephen Fry providing the narration.
Mr Blake, who was awarded an OBE for services to music in 1994, was born to working class parents in Brighton, and by the time he was six had taught himself to read and play music.
At 18, he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, and spent some time as a session musician before receiving his break in 1968, when he was asked to compose incidental music for some of the Tara King episodes of the hugely successful cult TV series The Avengers.
The 82-year-old believes the much loved story – which tells of a boy who made a snowman which comes to life – cannot be properly told without instrumental accompaniment
Then, by chance, in 1982, Howard met film producer John Coates, who was working on a new animated film.
This was The Snowman – based on the children’s picture book by Raymond Briggs – but he needed a score to accompany it.
Although many people believe that Aled Jones sang the film’s theme song, Walking in the Air, it was actually recorded by Peter Auty, a 12-year-old choir boy from St Paul’s Cathedral.
It was only five years later, when a toy company asked to use the tune for a TV commercial, that Howard decided to re-record it.
Mr Blake likes to tell friends the story of a time he caught a taxi to the airport, when Walking in the Air was topping the Christmas charts.
He recalls: ‘The radio in the taxi was playing The Snowman, and I asked the driver to turn it down. He said, ‘ Listen mate, this is the best tune you’ll ever hear. You should sit back and listen. You might learn about good music.’
‘So I sat back and said rather smugly. ‘Well, actually, I wrote this song. The driver turned around and said, ‘Oh, yeah? And I’m Father Christmas.”
A BBC spokesman said: ‘The BBC Singers are honoured to work with Howard Blake on a special project as part of our Christmas line up.’