Composer Alexandra Harwood wrote the music to the 2020 remake of All Creatures Great and Small. The 2020 remake is based on James Herriot’s memoir of the same name, telling the story of his life working as a vet in rural Yorkshire. The programme was produced by Channel 5 and PBS Masterpiece.
Sunday evenings on Channel 5 just got a little cosier thanks to the new TV-take on All Creatures Great and Small. Based on James Herriot’s much-loved series of autobiographical books, the series shares his tales of life as a Yorkshire veterinarian in the 1930s and ’40s.
The music for the series, including its theme tune, is by British composer Alexandra Harwood whose most familiar screen music to date is her score for the film The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Harwood, daughter of the late playwright/screenwriter Sir Ronald Harwood, studied at the Royal College of Music, Juilliard and the National Film and Television School. She has penned commissioned works for Ballet Rambert and St John’s Smith Square, but is today hard at work as a film and television composer.
The trailer for All Creatures Great and Small
Who is Alexandra Harwood and what else has she composed music for?
Alexandra Harwood has also written scores for films including The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, documentaries, programmes and stage productions including Geisha for the Northern Ballet. She trained at the Royal College of Music and the Juilliard School, before being appointed composer in residence for the Juilliard Drama Division. She later studied at the National Film and Television School, at which point she moved into composing for the screen as well as stage.
She has studied with both Oliver Knussen and Milton Babbitt.
How is the theme tune and soundtrack different to the 1975 film version of All Creatures Great and Small?
All Creatures Great and Small was first dramatised on screen in a 1975 film, followed – most memorably – by a Sunday-tea time drama on BBC One that ran for 12 years from 1978-90. The music for that series was by the late British composer Johnny Pearson, the theme becoming a bit of a classic. Pearson actually composed what became the theme music in 1969 as a library piece called Piano Parchment, re-recording it with his orchestra for the series in 1978. It’s sunny, rolling piano tune – eminently hummable – quickly became synonymous with scenes of the Yorkshire Dales and all the humour and warmth of the series.
Alexandra Harwood’s new theme very much emulates that feeling, with a similarly rolling piano line, sunny strings, woodwind and harp – albeit born of a computer and not a small orchestra.