James Corden, Tom Odell and Melanie C to lead celebrations of a Christmas classic
PUBLISHED: 17:20 06 December 2013 | UPDATED: 17:20 06 December 2013
Composer Ilan Eshkeri and musician Andy Burrows explain the eternal appeal of The Snowman and how they soundtracked its sequel
When The Snowman originally premiered on Boxing Day 1982, it sparked a generation of dreamers, of young boys and girls flying through dark Christmas nights to the ethereal sound of Walking in the Air.
As festive classics go, they don’t get much bigger, and perhaps this is why it took 30 years to persuade Raymond Briggs, the author of the book behind the famous television adaptation, to lend his permission to a sequel.
Last year, on Christmas Eve, The Snowman and the Snowdog was released to much excitement, with a new story and a soundtrack written by composer Ilan Eshkeri and former Razorlight rock band drummer Andy Burrows.
In a celebratory series of shows this month, the film is coming to the Union Chapel and will screen alongside a live soundtrack performed by Eshkeri, Burrows and the London Metropolitan Orchestra.
This will be followed by a fun and festive singalong with celebrities including James Corden and Melanie C.
“A lot of the guests attending these shows actually played on the soundtrack,” says Camden Town resident Eshkeri, “which just highlights the pulling power of The Snowman itself.
“To give an example, when it was first announced that we were doing it, Tim Wheeler from Ash phoned me up and said his mum was asking if he could play some guitar on the solo. That’s what it means – it’s part of our childhood, part of our heritage.”
“There was no question,” adds Burrows. “When you’ve grown up with The Snowman, to be asked to do something like this with the blessing of the original team – it’s hard to pass up.”
The 24-minute film, which uses the same animation techniques as The Snowman, similarly features a breathtaking flying sequence.
In the first film, this was set to Walking in the Air, but in the second, it is backed by Light the Night – an Eshkeri/Burrows original that is being released on December 23 as a stand alone single.
Aware of the popularity of Howard Blake’s 1982 classic – later covered by Aled Jones – both musicians paid full respect from the start.
“With this project, you have the history of Walking in the Air and since you can’t use it again, you’re naturally pitted against it,” says Eshkeri. “But at the same time, we grew up loving and appreciating that music, so it was never in our minds to try and better it.”
When it comes to the show, Eshkeri jokes that he’ll hide behind Burrows and let him talk to the crowd, in light of the latter’s “rock star” experience. Both however have considerable musical pedigree – Eshkeri is the acclaimed composer behind Starlight, Kickass and recently Alan Partridge’s Alpha Papa, while Burrows previously found success with Razorlight before joining We Are Scientists and establishing himself as a reputable solo artist.
“As the ex-drummer of a rock band, it’s the sort of opportunity you dream of,” he says, “but that’s why I was so chuffed to see Ilan, who’s worked on so many classic films, equally excited about the score.”
The two musicians aren’t the only famous faces on hand each night.
December 12 will see musicians Tom Odell and Melanie C join the party, before Corden appears the following night, with folksinger Emmy the Great and Ash’s Wheeler closing the series on Saturday.
With such a diverse mix of entertainers, what brought them all together?
“As strange as it may sound, they’re all just very dear friends coming along to sing a song or two,” Burrows says.
“I’m really excited. Me and James go for a drink from time to time and if there’s a piano about, we always end up playing a few numbers.
“You might not think it, but the boy can sing.”
The Snowman and The Snowdog live-to-picture shows come to the Union Chapel from December 12-14. Tickets are £20, to book visit www.unionchapel.org.uk