Other Composers

Howard Blake - the Snowman's accompanist

The Snowman (CD cover) by Howard Blake Howard Blake is an accomplished pianist and composer who studied at the Royal School of Music in the UK. He composed music for the stage, radio and television, most notably incidental music for several episodes of "The Avengers", before establishing a career in film music. This career includes some stints as orchestrator for other composers such as Henry Mancini and a long CV of scores in his own name. His film music constitutes a large part of his overall output, though Blake has not neglected concert pieces having composed concertos for Clarinet, Piano and Violin as well as an oratorio called "Benedictus". His name came to prominence in the public eye when he composed the music for a production based on the book "The Snowman". This was soon turned into an animated film and "The Snowman" is now regularly broadcast on television at Christmas time. The familiar theme tune "Walking in the Air" was a big hit for the singer Aled Jones, at that time a boy soprano. (The music is also familiar from the "Irn Bru" adverts in the style of "The Snowman" with alternative humorous lyrics.) The team behind this first animation went on to create others in the same style including "Grandpa" and "The Bear". Howard Blake even makes a cameo appearance in "The Bear" as the pianist at the window, while writer and illustrator Raymond Briggs appears as the smiling face in the moon.

Howard Blake and Queen - Flash Gordon soundtrack album cover For a number of years, Howard Blake played an active role in the Performing Rights Society, and in 1994 he received an OBE for his services to music. Howard Blake has also written pieces for a variety of instruments and combinations. Among several for solo piano is his "Lifecycle" which, like Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier and similar works by other composers, is a set of 24 pieces (dedicated to Vladimir Ashkenazy) in all the keys including the "Walking Song" in A. This is just another example of his inclination towards the classical traditions of music, which is evident in some of his pieces, though clearly "The Snowman" is a theme which reappears from time to time in the composer's output. One of his pieces is a String Quartet version of "The Snowman". "The Snowman" is now regularly performed as a stage event during the Christmas Season, for example at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre during Christmas 2006 and a version of the live stage show is now available on DVD. See below for links to "The Snowman" and other Sheet Music by Blake.

Howard Blake - The Avengers A new CD release celebrates Blake's music for the TV show "The Avengers". The show's music started out with jazzy sounds by the great Johnny Dankworth for the original series. Then Laurie Johnson took over for most of the series, supplying its iconic theme and some unique sounds for most episodes. Howard Blake was the pianist for many of the recording sessions so he knew the show and its music intimately. When Johnson was busy during series 6 (working on his new musical "The Four Musketeers") it was natural for Blake to take over, providing 10 episodes with Tara King replacing Emma Peel as the female lead. Blake's music is fully in keeping with the established format of the show, yet providing a new twist on this final season of the cult show. The "Silva Screen" release is on 2 CDs with a total of 50 tracks and a 16-page booklet. The CD is available at www.amazon.co.uk.

A prolific composer outside of film and TV work, Blake has produced quite a lot of piano music. For example the album "Lifecycle" played beautifully by William Chen, with a number of tracks (including "Walking Song") also recorded by Vladimir Ashkenazy for his album "Walking In The Air - The Music Of Howard Blake".

Films by Howard Blake:

    Howard Blake score - Flash Gordon soundtrack album cover
  • An Elephant called Slowly - with the Virginia McKenna/Bill Travers team
  • The Duellists - historical drama by Ridley Scott
  • Agatha
  • The Riddle of the Sands - great sea-faring adventure music
  • The Changeling - the film was scored by Rick Wilkins but Blake supplied the music box theme
  • Flash (Gordon) - remembered for the songs by Queen, Blake did some arranging and the incidental music for the film, full of lovely synth music which somehow evokes the retro look of the film
  • The Snowman - the theme song "Walking in the Air" was a big hit for boy soprano Aled Jones (though he didn't sing on the original film)
  • The Lords of Discipline
  • Amityville 3-D
  • A Month in the Country
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (1996)
  • Grandpa - a Snowman follow-on
  • The Bear - another animation from "The Snowman" team and also based on a Raymond Briggs book

To mark the 30th Anniversary of the original animation, a sequel was created in 2012 called "The Snowman and the Snowdog". This has music by Ilan Eshkeri and Andy Burrows.

TV music by Howard Blake:

  • The Avengers - incidental music for a total of 10 episodes, substituting for the series resident composer Laurie Johnson, and Blake was able to retain the series style because he played piano during Johnson's scoring sessions
  • Play for Today - the episode called "Stronger than the Sun"
  • BBC2 Playhouse - a couple of episodes of this
  • S.O.S. Titanic - TV movie
  • The Moon Stallion - a children's fantasy series
  • The Canterbury Ghost

Howard Blake - Recommendations:

The Snowman (Sheet Music cover) by Howard Blake The soundtrack to the Snowman starts with the narrated version of the story which makes a great bedtime story for children leading up to Christmas, and is reminiscent of Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" story. In addition the CD also has the soundtrack on its own without the narration, and this is great fun music for children of all ages. The Piano Score version of the full film is quite tricky to play, but there are simpler versions of the main theme alone or a suite from the film. The theme song is available in a piano plus vocal arrangement (with guitar chords) from MusicRoom.

Howard Blake - music for piano and strings album album cover Blake's "Lifecycle" for piano is available from this link at MusicRoom and this link at MusicRoom lists many other pieces for various instruments. His "Music for Piano and Strings" listed below is a good example of his concert or chamber music style. The album includes a collection of "Jazz" pieces for violin and piano, which like Shostakovich's "Jazz Suites" are not true Jazz, but simply lighter less serious works. The Howard Blake official website is at www.howardblake.com.

Howard Blake - Memorabilia:

Here are some CD covers signed by Howard Blake. Our thanks to Petr Kocanda for permission to use his collection of autographed CDs. Click any thumbnail below to see the image full size in a separate window.

Howard Blake: The Changeling - signed CD Howard Blake: The Snowman - signed CD