A local composer is releasing a new album of his latest symphonies.

Christopher Gunning, from Watford, is most famously known for his work on ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and he also composed the music for La Vie en Rose.

His latest album features his 2nd, 10th and 12th Symphonies and is the culmination of 16 years of contemporary classical music composition. This new album, recorded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, marks a key moment in Christopher’s career as he signs to prestigious record label Signum Classics, who will be reissuing all of his classical releases across 2020, as well as his beloved Poirot music.

We sat down with the classical composer following the release of his new album on December 6.

How did your career in music begin?

I was always going to be a musician, and especially a composer. I was composing pieces by the age of 4, and I continued through school. Then I studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. When I left college I played the piano for a living in pubs in the Old Kent Road. But after a while, I had my break when Dudley Moore asked me to assist with some orchestrations for his film scores. I also helped out with some orchestrations for Richard Rodney Bennett on his films. All this led to composing some documentary film scores, so I was building some valuable experience.

How did you end up working on ITV’S Agatha Christie’s Poirot?

I had already worked with producer Brian Eastman on Porterhouse Blue, for which I won my first BAFTA award, and I was invited by Brian, who was setting up Poirot, to write the theme music. I presented Brian with five possible themes, and he immediately chose no. 5. We recorded an elaborate demo, but when it was set against some test footage of David Suchet dressed as Poirot, worries emerged! The music was too “perky” and not quite serious enough. So I went home and re-arranged the music. I rescored it for an alto saxophone and put the backing instruments in a lower key, making the whole thing feel much darker and more mysterious. This version won the day, and everyone was happy!

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Is there a particular work you’re most proud of?

Among my film scores, I will always be especially fond of La Vie en Rose, concerning the life of Edith Piaf and starring Marion Cotillard. It won me my fourth BAFTA award. But among my concert works, I think my 10th symphony has turned out well.

What can listeners expect from your new album?

In general, my symphonies are longer and more developed than my film scores. Also, symphonies tend to have a wider emotional range and have more variety and colour. I would love listeners to turn down the lights, relax on a sofa, and to surrender themselves entirely to the music.

How is the experience of creating an album different from writing for film and TV?

It’s chalk and cheese really. In creating a score for a film or TV production, you have to be subservient to the film. This means that where there is dialogue, you have to keep out of the way. You then need to come forward when there is an important emotional point to make. But when you write your own music with nothing visual to accompany, you are free to go your own way. Of course, that can sometimes feel quite difficult, but ultimately I think it is more rewarding. I look on my symphonies as novels, telling their own stories.

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Are there more new albums in your future?

I certainly hope so! My wish is to continue composing as long as I am able to draw breath!

Do you have one career highlight that stands out?

Winning a BAFTA Award or an Ivor Novello Award is a tremendous accolade, and having four of each in my music room is absolutely lovely! Being presented by Twiggy for my award for Poirot stands out as a particularly brilliant evening. But hearing my 10th symphony performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Kenneth Woods was certainly a close second.

What are your Christmas plans?

I will go to St Albans Abbey for morning service, then drive to Coleshill to be with my family for the rest of the day. We’ll take a walk in the country, open presents and enjoy Christmas lunch. On Boxing Day, everyone will come here and continue as Christmas Day. These are quite often the only days when we can all be together. My four daughters live scattered over the globe now so sadly I don’t get to see them or my four grandchildren as often as I’d like.

For more information visit christopher-gunning.co.uk