This year celebrates the 40th anniversary of the classic children’s book, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs*. Originally published in 1978 as a wordless picture book, its popularity saw it brought to life on screen in 1982 as a short film. Being born in the early 80’s, I can’t remember a Christmas without The Snowman and it’s become a family tradition to always watch when it’s televised on Christmas Eve. For me it just wouldn’t be Christmas without our annual viewing, as after so many years the two simply go hand in hand.
Unsurprisingly, I almost exploded with excitement back in the Summer when we were invited along to Durham Cathedral for very special screening. Let’s just say, having to wait until December was extremely difficult! Specially created by Carrot Productions, The Snowman Tour offers its audience the unique opportunity to watch the well-loved festive classic, accompanied by a professional live orchestra. It’s such a simple, yet genius idea and we have spent months counting down to the big day which (finally!) dawned last Friday.
Despite our proximity to Durham, we have never travelled into the city and as the cathedral is such a focal point couldn’t wait to see inside the iconic building. The grandeur of the building and its stunning architecture made the perfect backdrop for the show and it was easy to see why it had been chosen as the venue – it was perfect and added something extra special to whole experience and the acoustics were of course AMAZING!
The show began with a jolly festive overture which really got us feeling festive again – being post-Christmas we really welcomed a little top up of Christmas spirit! The kids loved listening and recognising the well-known songs and sang along where they knew the words too!
We were then treated to a sweet little cartoon story all about how the orchestra struggled to reach Durham’s performance last year due to heavy snow. Accompanied by music to help tell the tale, the story was filled with plenty of visual humour and had the audience chuckling along.
Although the ‘main’ event was of course the tour’s namesake, we were in fact treated to a double-bill of animation with a showing of The Bear and the Piano*. Based on the book by David Litchfield, the specially commissioned animation tells the story of a young bear who discovers a piano in his forest home. Over time he learns to create beautiful music instead of an awful din, before being discovered by humans who take him to Broadway to play. This wonderfully sweet tale was narrated by none other than Joanna Lumley, whose dulcet tones complemented the orchestra perfectly in bringing the story to life. The kids were riveted and didn’t take their eyes from the screen the whole time, something which doesn’t often happen!
Eagerly anticipating the start of The Snowman, we were instead treated to another musical extravaganza as the orchestra played The Snowman Waltz. Whilst enjoying the music, and much the delight of every child in the place, The Snowman himself arrived. Dancing up and down the aisles and greeting people as he went the smiles stretched far and wide. Leo was rather apprehensive to get close but really enjoyed waving from afar, although others loved getting up close, even sneaking a few high-5’s!
The excitement was palpable as The Snowman began and once more the kids were glued to the screen. The music was incredible throughout, but for me the accompaniment for this film was mind blowing. I wouldn’t like to say how many times I have watched it before, but I felt thoroughly absorbed in the music as I watched, feeling every note and emotion it was created to evoke. At times I forgot the music was being played by live musicians and it was awe inspiring when the realisation dawned on me.
The highlight for me though was the local soloist who performed Walking In The Air. There are literally no words worthy enough to describe how amazing her rendition was. Note perfect and with the power and skill of a much older, seasoned singer she was simply incredible. My daughter couldn’t believe she was actually singing it live and initially thought it was a recording of the original by Peter Auty.
The whole show lasted just over an hour which was the perfect length for the kids. They sat beautifully and watched the whole performance, but any longer and I’m sure there would have been some shuffling about as attention spans would have expired! Although primarily aimed at families with children, I do feel the show had something for everyone. In fact, I’d happily have gone along without the kids!
We thoroughly enjoyed every second of The Snowman Tour experience. It was a wonderful way to introduce live, classical music to the children and it will certainly be something they will be talking about for months to come. It was a magical, festive afternoon that the whole family loved. Two massive thumbs up from us and if you get the chance to go I recommend you grab it with both hands!
To find out more about forthcoming productions visit the Carrot Productions Website