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Mothering Sunday: our guide to the film's soundtrack and original score

Graham Swift's popular novella Mothering Sunday has been adapted for the big screen, with its very own original score – and a few pieces of music neoclassical lovers might be familiar with

Published: November 20, 2021 at 10:00 am

Inspired by the novel by Graham Swift, Mothering Sunday is set in 1924 and tells the story of housemaid Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young), who finds herself along on Mother's Day. Her employers are out and she has the opportunity to spend time with her secret lover, Paul (Josh O'Connor), who is engaged to another woman. The film, based on a book by Graham Swift, takes place over the course of just one day, with flashbacks and other narrative threads explored throughout.


Who composed the music for Mothering Sunday?

The original score for Mothering Sunday has been written by American composer, cellist and vocalist Morgan Kibby, who also goes by the name White Sea. It's her third collaboration with director Eva Husson, following their work on Bang Gang: A Modern Love Story and Girls of the Sun.

Kibby grew up performing in the chorus of the San Francisco Opera House and Marin Theater Company. She has previously worked as a writer, producer and performer with bands including Panic! at the Disco, and has recorded solo material under the moniker White Sea. In recent years, she has dipped her toe into film scoring, following the success of her first score in the French film Bang Gang.

She has been mentored by the likes of Harry Gregson Williams at the Sundance Composer Lab, where she was enrolled as a fellow.

As a producer, she has collaborated on the recent album from Harry Style, Fine Line, and has written and arranged for Lady Gaga's album Chromatica.

The music was edited by Warren Brown, Paul Chandler and Peter Clarke.

Is there any classical music featured in the film?

As well as the original score by Morgan Kibby, there are a few neoclassical tracks feature in Mothering Sunday's soundtrack.

In the dining room scene, in which Jane is serving Paul and his fiancée and we learn of their engagement, we hear the opening of the first movement of Summer from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. But it's not the version most classical music lovers will be familiar with – it's part of Max Richter's 'Recomposed' series, an entire reinterpretation of Vivaldi's score. Richter created the piece using about a quarter of Vivaldi's original material, using phasing and looping methods to restructure the melodic and harmonic structure, in line with his minimalist influences.

The version heard on this soundtrack is the original recording of the work, performed by Richter himself with violinist Daniel Hope and the Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin, under the direction of André de Ridder.

Also heard in the soundtrack is jazzer Bill Novick's tune Drop Me Off at 42nd Street.

Another piece that neoclassical music lovers might be familiar with is Nils Frahms's For – Peter – Toilet Brushes – More.

What's the score for Mothering Sunday like?

The film opens with a solo violin line playing fragmented intervals, accompanied by an ensemble of other strings playing melancholy chords. Strings play a leading role in the film's score, with broken chords forming the basis of the melody.

As the story progresses, a flute is added, but the string theme continues to emerge, with occasional interjection from the piano. The melody tends to be quite spiky and jarring in the tenser moments of the plot, and often is silenced entirely during scenes of real anguish.

Mothering Sunday: the book that inspired the film

Graham Swift's novella, Mothering Sunday, was published in 2016, and has been adapted for the big screen by playwright and screenwriter Alice Birch, who has also worked on hit TV shows Normal People and Succession.

Can you buy and stream the Mothering Sunday soundtrack?

The soundtrack and original score for Mothering Sunday are now available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.

It's also available to buy on Amazon.


Watch the trailer for Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday: cast

Odessa Young (Jane Fairchild)
Josh O'Connor (Paul)
Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù (Donald)
Glenda Jackson (Older Jane Fairchild)
Olivia Colman (Mrs Niven)
Colin Firth (Mr Niven)

Mothering Sunday: release date

Mothering Sunday will be released in cinemas on 12 November.


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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