Christopher Gunning (1944-2023) - film and television composer

Christopher Gunning - Edith Piaf - La Vie en Rose soundtrack CD cover Christopher Gunning was born into a musical family. His father Alexis was a composer and pianist, and his mother was also a pianist and had performed some of his father's works. Being surrounded by music and pianos from an early age, it was no surprise that he decided to study music. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (where he met Geoffrey Burgon) and also at Durham University, and while he was a student his tutors included Richard Rodney Bennett who was to be a significant influence on his career. In his early career he composed music for a number of documentary films, and gained experience as an arranger for several artists, such as Shirley Bassey and The Hollies. He also achieved considerable success composing music for adverts, with notable campaigns including products such as "Martini Extra-Dry" and the James Bond-styled "Black Magic". If you're of the right age, you will instantly recognise the music from these adverts.

Christopher Gunning - Agatha Christie's Poirot soundtrack CD cover Richard Rodney Bennett gave Christopher Gunning some early opportunies in his career for television with the P&O documentary film "Runaway to Sea" and arranging Bennett's music for the drama film "Nicholas and Alexandria". Gunning worked briefly for Hammer Films on "Hands of the Ripper" and more recent films have included "Firelight" starring Sophie Marceau and "La Vie en Rose" where Marion Cotillard picked up the best actress oscar for her role as the French singer Édith Piaf. It is Gunning's work for television which has most occupied the composer for many years, and it is also this work which has probably made the biggest public impression. In particular the "Agatha Christie's Poirot" series (with David Suchet) has resulted in a string of films for television spanning 2 decades and Gunning's theme for the Belgian detective is instantly recognisable. The jazz saxophonist Stan Sulzman interprets the theme and Gunning has given each film its own musical identity while still incorporating elements of the detective's eccentric melody. Other notable contributions to television have included "Middlemarch", "Cold Lazarus", "Karaoke", "Porterhouse Blue", "Wild Africa" and the series "Rosemary & Thyme" with Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris as a pair of sleuthing gardeners. The theme for "Rosemary & Thyme" is of course based on the traditional English Folk Song Scarborough Fair suggested by the programme's title, and played by the guitarist John Williams in the concert version "Rosemary and Thyme Caprice".

Christopher Gunning - The Film and TV Music of Christpher Gunning CD cover In more recent years, Christopher Gunning seems to have divided his time between composing for Television and Film, and composing for the concert hall. In the latter category he has now completed a total of 12 Symphonies plus concertos for oboe, clarinet, saxophone and piano. The Oboe concerto was written for (and has been recorded by) Verity Gunning, one of the composer's 4 daughters, to whom a family musical tradition has been passed. In 2010 the composer had his work featured on BBC Radio 3 (week beginning September 27th) using tracks from his latest CD of film music, and he participated in the "Concert for Care" (see organised by fellow composer David Arnold. That CD has now been released in the UK (with the US release due soon), and it is available as a CD or download album from these link at and

Here's a selection of Christopher Gunning music on YouTube:

Trivia: Christopher Gunning has spoken about developing a psychosomatic skin rash while working on "The Day of the Triffids", as though stung by the fictional plants.

Update 2023: It is with great sadness that I report the death of Christopher Gunning at the age of 78. On a personal note, though I never met Christopher, I was pleased to call him a friend on social media where he frequently liked and commented on my many photos of the Scottish Highlands.

Films by Christopher Gunning:

    Christopher Gunning - Firelight soundtrack CD cover
  • Goodbye Gemini - the music has a touch of jazz
  • Hands of the Ripper - Gunning's single entry in the Hammer Horror camp alongside Hammer veteran James Bernard
  • Nicholas and Alexandra - arranging, conducting and providing additional music to this score by Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Man About the House - Hammer film version based on the TV series
  • Amin: The Rise and Fall - based on the Ugandan Dictator
  • When the Whales Came - the theme uses a female voice to haunting effect
  • Under Suspicion
  • Firelight - romantic costume drama
  • Lighthouse Hill
  • La Vie en Rose (also called "La Môme") - the film concentrates on the songs, but Gunning's score with some song adaptations effortlessly blends with and complements the songs of Edith Piaf

TV Music by Christopher Gunning:

Gunning is particularly recognised for his contribution to series such as "Poirot", "Rosemary & Thyme" and "Cold Lazarus" but has been scoring series since the 1970s and has a number of TV Movies in his credits.

    Christopher Gunning - Rosemary and Thyme soundtrack CD cover
  • Runaway to Sea - Gunning's first documentary film, passed to him by Richard Rodney Bennett, showing life aboard the P&O ship Canberra
  • Intimate Strangers - Drama series
  • Running Blind
  • A Deadly Game
  • The Day of the Triffids - mini-series made by the BBC and the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) in 1981
  • The Brack Report - TV series
  • Agatha Christie: Poirot - theme and incidental music for the majority of the "Poirot" stories starting in 1989 with several episodes a year but becoming less frequent into the "noughties"
  • Poterhouse Blue - some of this mini-series
  • Knights of God
  • Middlemarch
  • The Glass Virgin - and some involvement in this mini-series
  • Karaoke - TV mini-series
  • Cold Lazarus - TV mini-series
  • Wild Africa - BBC nature series with the music released on CD
  • Reckless
  • The Innocent - TV Movie
  • Rebecca - TV Movie
  • Pollyanna - TV Movie
  • Rosemary & Thyme - title music (based on Scarborough Fair) and most of the incidental music for this series starring Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris as gardening detectives

Christopher Gunning Recommendations:

TV Detective (themes for solo piano) Sheet Music Book If you're looking for piano sheet music of Christopher Gunning's compositions, then the "TV Detctive" volume of "Themes for Solo Piano" has the themes for both "Agatha Christie's Poirot" and "Rosemary & Thyme" (available from this link at Music Room). Alternatively this volume is part of a larger "bumper book" called "TV Themes for Solo Piano" which combines the 3 individual books for "Comedy", "Detective", and "Soap & Drama" (available from this link at Music Room). The second book is much better value if you are interested in a range of different TV Themes. If you are looking for CDs with Gunning's music, some of the older recordings can be hard to find, but the more recent albums are readily available. Try the following Amazon links to check availability:

The composer's official web-site is at

Christopher Gunning - Memorabilia:

Here is a CD cover signed by Christopher Gunning. Our thanks to Petr Kocanda for permission to use his collection of autographed CDs. Click on the thumbnail below to see a full size version of the image in a separate window.

Christopher Gunning: Karaoke & Cold Lazarus - signed CD