Entertainment

Aled Jones: I don't do Christmas songs until December

Welshman Aled Jones has had a successful career as a singer and broadcaster since first coming to fame as a boy chorister in the 1980s. He tells Jenny Lee about his favourite hymns, Strictly Come Dancing and his talented children – but don't expect carols at his Belfast show

Welsh singer and broadcaster Aled Jones will be performing his How Great Thou Art – A Night of Spiritual Hits at Belfast's Waterfront Hall on November 30
Welsh singer and broadcaster Aled Jones will be performing his How Great Thou Art – A Night of Spiritual Hits at Belfast's Waterfront Hall on November 30 Welsh singer and broadcaster Aled Jones will be performing his How Great Thou Art – A Night of Spiritual Hits at Belfast's Waterfront Hall on November 30

HAVING risen to fame in the 1980s as a young chorister, best known for his recording of Walking In The Air, the hit song from animated film The Snowman, Aled Jones has gone on to enjoy a successful career as both a singer and broadcaster.

And his children are following in his footsteps. His daughter Emilia (15) is already a successful actress, having been in the original cast of Shrek the Musical in London's West End, the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and, most notably, as the young Queen of Years, Merry Gejelh, in the 2013 series of Doctor Who.

Now his 12-year-old son Lucas, who with his windswept blond hair and pale blue eyes is the spitting image of his famous father when he rose to fame, has duetted with his dad on his new album One Voice: Believe, which last week entered the UK classical charts at number one and debuted at 17 in UK album charts.

This collection of sacred songs is the final album in Aled's One Voice trilogy and the one of which he is most proud.

"The first one was folk songs, the second was Christmas songs; this one is special because I've written a song on there and my son gets roped into singing with me on The Lord's My Shepherd," Aled, who grew up in a Welsh-speaking community near Bangor in north Wales, says.

And will we hear more of young Lucas Jones in the future?

"He enjoyed it, but he only wanted to be on one record for memories more than anything else. I loved being in the studio with Lucas and even now when I'm at work in Classic FM and hear the tracks being played it brings a tear to my eye. It's remarkable, as he's never had a singing lesson and only ever sang at school. But he has a lovely pure voice and I'm so proud of him."

The album has also been an emotional journey down memory lane as it contains three bonus tracks which were discovered as reel-to-reel tapes in the attic of the 78-year-old former tenor choirster of Bangor Cathedral. These tracks – How Beautiful Are the Feet, Pie Jesu (Faure) and Y Lili Ddwr (the Welsh version of The Lotus Flower by Schumann) feature a 10-year-old Aled singing, before he had secured his first record deal.

The album's title track, Believe, is Aled's own composition, and took shape in his subconscious, as he explains: "I had the tune in my head when I woke up and went upstairs and sat down at the piano. An hour later I had the whole song. I do a lot in my sleep. It's the same with learning a piece to camera. I use my sleep to get it in order and when I get up I usually know it."

No stranger to Belfast, Aled most recently visited the city to record a promotional video for Tourism Ireland, featuring him enjoying a street art walking tour of the city.

"I love Belfast. I've sung there so many times over the years, but the walk was brilliant. We normally walk around with our heads down most of the time. I wasn't aware of any street art before, but there's lots of it. I saw parts of the city I never saw before and particularly loved the Cathedral Quarter."

Later this month Aled and his musicians present How Great Thou Art – A Night of Spiritual Hits at Belfast's Waterfront Hall. The show will combine some of the new pieces from his album, with well known favourites including Danny Boy, Amazing Grace and You Raise Me Up.

"The concert will include pieces I found inspirational throughout my life, and without a doubt we will be singing How Great Thou Art," says Aled of his favourite hymn. "It is such an uplifting piece and so emotional at the end. I also love Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace, which is 100 per cent relevant in today's world."

Omagh singer Donna Taggart will be Aled's special guest during the show and he is looking forward to singing a duet with her on the night. What audiences won't be getting is any early Christmas carols.

"I don't sing Christmas songs until December," he laughs.

And his favourite Christmas song?

"Everyone would expect me to say Walking In The Air, but I'm a big fan of the traditional carols. You can't better Away In A Manger and Silent Night."

Although, perhaps surprisingly, he admits he is not a regular church attender, Aled does believe in a higher spiritual power.

"I find I have a spiritual connection through music. When I'm on stage singing these hymns, I feel there is something greater than us and I suppose that's why I want to do it."

He is, of course, a regular presenter of Songs of Praise and will be presenting the BBC series' Christmas Eve programme. Looking ahead to 2018 Aled will continue with his Classic FM radio show, host a new series of his ITV Weekend chat show, as well as "having fingers in a few other pies".

Having starred in the second series of Strictly Come Dancing in 2004, he says he is still a fan of the show, although he's happy to be be just watching.

"I love watching this series, while all the time thanking the Lord I'm not in it."

And his favourite to win this series?

"I was shocked to see Aston go, but I think Debbie McGee is brilliant and would love to see her go all the way."

After beginning his career at the age of 12, Aled became one of the world’s most successful boy sopranos, releasing 16 albums before the age of 16. Over the next three decades, he amassed million of album sales, received an MBE and became a popular radio and television presenter, of shows as diverse as Daybreak and Escape to the Country.

I ask him, could pick a highlight from his career?

"The stuff I did as a kid was so crazy, because it was so quick. We were continuously producing albums and travelling all over the world. The fact I'm still doing it is amazing and I suppose the success of these One Voice albums is a big highlight," he says.

Having came out from childhood fame unscathed, does Aled believe his early success helped him advise his daughter Emilia, who had her first professional acting job at only eight years old?

"As I said to my daughter, as long as you are enjoying what you are doing, then do it. If you're not happy then don't. She's 15 now and doesn't listen to her dad. She's very level headed and takes it all in her stride."

And will we see Emilia duetting with her dad on a future album?

"She can sing and does a lot of writing on guitar but her passion is massively film. I think she will be too busy," he laughs.

:: Aled Jones will perform his How Great Thou Art – A Night of Spiritual Hits at Belfast's Waterfront Hall on November 30. Tickets from Waterfront.co.uk