Aled Jones: ‘I’m a real sucker for Away in a Manger’
08:00 24 November 2016
Singer and broadcaster Aled Jones talks to Zoe Paskett about dueting with his younger self and loving a traditional Christmas ahead of his festive Barbican show
If there is one thing that defines Yuletide in the UK – apart from John Lewis and Coca Cola adverts – it’s The Snowman.
For the past three decades, families have crowded around the telly to watch Raymond Briggs’ animated classic, accompanied by one of the most iconic Christmas tunes of recent years. Though sung by Peter Auty in the film, it was Aled Jones who took it to the charts.
“Walking in the Air seemed to resonate with the public back in 1985 and has done so every year since,” says Jones.
“Recording Walking in the Air was one of the last things I did as a boy soprano. I’d had so many great opportunities before then like singing with Leonard Bernstein, singing in the Hollywood bowl, singing at Bob Geldof and Paula Yates’ wedding and performing in major concert halls all over the world.”
During his childhood, he became used to performing for the highest profile audiences, with the Queen, Prince and Princess of Wales and Pope John Paul II also on that list.
As a young teen with 10 albums under his belt, Jones spent his week at school in Wales, travelling the globe on the weekends.
“That was normal to me,” he says.
Jones studied at the Royal Academy after leaving school, and has since hosted Songs of Praise, ITV’s Weekend and Classic FM’s Sunday breakfast show. Earlier in the year he released his first ever duet album with a difference – singing with recordings of his younger self that his parents had found and kept safe.
“I only found out about the recordings – in an airing cupboard in order to keep dry and out of sunlight – a couple of years back when having a dinner table chat with my parents. That recording was never released back in the 80s as my voice had broken.
“Down to my father’s fastidiousness I had this previously unheard recording to work with.”
One Voice went straight to number three in the UK Album Chart and kept the number one position at the Classical Chart for 15 weeks. Jones says he felt “utterly humble” with the response.
“You never know how an album is going to do. I was incredibly proud of One Voice and really felt it was special. It was an opportunity for me to come full circle in my career and embrace the past for the first time.”
Off the back of this album’s success, Jones is releasing One Voice at Christmas, which will, of course, feature Walking in the Air, among some of Jones’s favourite carols.
“Carols are my favourite music. I’m a real sucker for the simple ones like Away in a Manger or Silent Night – the perfect marriage of words and music and they always take me back to the very early Christmases spent in primary school.”
A Christmas in the Jones household looks “totally traditional.”
“Lots of carols, but mostly quality time spent with family, eating and drinking too much.”
The next concert hall with his name on it will be the Barbican, where Christmas with Aled Jones on December 22 and 23 will see him joined on the stage by a wealth of musical talent.
Soprano Jennifer France, the London Chorus and London Concert Orchestra conducted by Toby Purser will be performing Bach’s Ave Maria and In the Bleak Midwinter, followed by carols for everyone to join in with.
“These concerts are Christmas through and through – more tinsel and glitter than a Strictly Come Dancing final!”
Having competed in the second series of the show, he would certainly know.
“It’s music to lift the spirit and leave the audience literally walking in the air. Sorry!”
Christmas with Aled Jones, Barbican Hall, December 22 to 23, part of the Raymond Gubbay Christmas Festival.
Tickets from £19.50 to £44.50. Information: barbican.org.uk