I'm totally fascinated with the Downton Abbey opening theme song. In fact not just fascinated but completely in love with it. I want to marry the man who composed it. Don't we all though, seriously?! But just who is he? My question was answered and I did a big SQUEE when I found this interview with him, John Lunn, the Downton Abbey composer, the man who created this magical piece of music:
In the interview talks about writing the Downton Abbey theme song, writing music based on the different character relationships, his musical background, where & how the music is created. We also learn that one of the characters sings in season three!
When writing music for television, Lunn insists one thing is critical. "The only way I can do it is to watch the picture," he says. "The picture is everything."
Lunn got the idea for Downton Abbey's opening theme while watching the first two scenes of the very first episode: The program opens with a train barreling down a track; the next scene shows Downton servants preparing the house as morning dawns. Lunn first wrote music that captured the energy of the train, then realized it worked just as well in the scene of the house coming to life. "The house is like a well-oiled machine," Lunn explains, "and part of the drama is when it isn't a well-oiled machine. It became obvious after those two cues that this was going to be the kind of material which was going to work for the whole series."
The opening music ends with a third inversion on a 7th chord, which Lunn feels has a grandeur that gives the house its own theme. He acknowledges the chord is a surprising one to end on, but the entire piece showcases Lunn's broad influences, ranging from Ralph Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar to Philip Glass.
Beyond the opening, Lunn writes music for relationships between key characters. He's written romantic themes for Matthew and Mary and for Anna and Bates. Lunn has also created music to accompany the furtive plotting of Thomas and Mrs. O'Brien. "That's the hardest stuff to write," Lunn chuckles. "It's much easier to write a love tune than sneaky music!"
Occasionally, Lunn goes on set at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, the shooting location for much of Downton Abbey. In series two, when Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) perform "If You Were the Only Girl in the World" for a roomful of soldiers, Lunn is playing piano out of frame while Carmichael mimes along. Lunn has already been on set for season three, again playing piano and coaching a cast member who sings a song. "More often than not, the composer never meets the actors or the people at the front end of the production," Neame observes. "I think they're very enthusiastic about John's music and therefore like having him on set whenever there is a musical sequence."
There's more to the interview here at Minnesota Public Radio.
I am in heaven after reading it! Who do you think sings in season three? Lady Mary & Matthew is who I'm hoping for!