Exclusive concert by Snowman composer

HE is the internationally famous composer who created the hit music for The Snowman.But Howard Blake chose an inconspicuous Suffolk church on Saturday as the setting for a one-off exclusive concert of his works.

Danielle Nuttall

HE is the internationally famous composer who created the hit music for The Snowman.

But Howard Blake chose an inconspicuous Suffolk church on Saturday as the setting for a one-off exclusive concert of his works.

The composer, who celebrates his 70th birthday later this year with a concert alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, recently discovered his great grandfather, Henry Andrews, was pastor of Quay Church in Woodbridge in the 1870s and 1880s.

To celebrate the family connection, Mr Blake agreed to host a unique concert at the church on Saturday night, including performances of some of his best-known works.

It was a Suffolk family who unearthed Mr Blake's ancestral link to the church.

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As a young girl, Helen Ellison, of Squires Lane, Kesgrave, travelled to London to receive tuition from Mr Blake on composition. The 30-year-old composer and music teacher still undertakes several musical arrangements for him.

Mrs Ellison's family, who have known Mr Blake for several years through their daughter, remembered him saying a distant relative had been a vicar in Ipswich many years ago but he had no idea where.

Deciding to investigate, the family contacted the Suffolk Records Office and discovered not only had Mr Blake's great grandfather been a pastor of the church - many of their own relatives had been members of the congregation at the same time.

Mr Blake, who has written numerous film scores including the 1980 film Flash Gordon and most famously the Channel 4 production The Snowman in 1982, said: “It's quite an odd story. I met Helen (nee Burrows) some years ago when she came to me for lessons in composition in London with her mother.

“She later started doing some work for me. I mentioned at some point that I believed my great grandfather had actually been some sort of vicar in Ipswich but that I didn't really know.

“Several years later I was up one day in Martlesham Heath and Helen's sister who does historical research said she had discovered in the county records office that my great grandfather was a pastor of Quay Church in Woodbridge.

“They said that I might want to take a look and there in front of me in the churchyard was a hold pile of gravestones belonging to the Andrews family, including my great grandfather. Until that point I hadn't known that.”

Mr Blake's great grandfather was born in 1832 and was pastor at the church from 1870 to 1887. His wife Harriet Augusta and two daughters, Harriet and Louisa, were active members of the church.

“It's a delightful church. The organ dates back to 1789. I played on it and it is excellent. My great grandmother played the same organ.

“I'm told that actually they keep discovering more about my grandfather. Evidently, he was a great speaker and when he said farewell to the church people came from all over Suffolk to hear him. He sounds like an interesting person.”

Mr Blake, who was born in London and brought up in Brighton, said it was a great idea to hold a concert in the same church to celebrate the connection.

During the performance, Mr Blake introduced a wide collection of his music, including Walking in the Air from The Snowman, sung by the Co-op Concentio Youth Choir, Dance of the Snowmen (flute by Carol Dolan, Penillion (violin by Mrs Ellison) and All God's Creatures, sung by the Martlesham Cantilena Choir.

“I've written an awful lot of music but it gets drowned by the Snowman - it's almost unbearable!” he joked.

Maureen Burrows, Mrs Ellison's mother, said it the event had been particularly significant for her own family, with so many ancestors having been members of the church when Mr Blake's great grandfather was pastor.

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