Love Actually: Glasgow composer Craig Armstrong 20 years on from the cult classic

Love Actually: Glasgow composer Craig Armstrong 20 years on from the cult classic

Picture Craig Armstrong. Credit: Simon Murphy

When Craig Armstrong sat down in his Glasgow studio to compose the cues for Richard Curtis’ Love Actually he had no idea the film would become a cult classic.

In the 20 years since its release, the romantic comedy has become a holiday viewing tradition in homes around the world.

‘It was my first time composing for a romantic comedy so it was a very new and exciting process working with Richard Curtis,’ Craig said. 

‘Richard advised me to not worry about the comedy but to write to the heart of the story and so that was the way I approached this.

‘I don’t think any of us knew how much of a loved film it would become.’

Craig's illustrious career has seen him work on The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Far From The Madding Crowd, Snowden and Ray.

In 2002 he won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score for Moulin Rouge, and in 2006 he received a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack album for the film Ray.

Now to celebrate the 20th anniversary ofLove Actually’s release Craig has brought out a new album, Love Actually – The Love Themes For Orchestra.

It comprises 15 songs from the film’s original score, all adapted, extended and reworked to fulfil Craig’s long-held ambition to create fuller versions of his now classic compositions.

‘I’m so pleased to have had the chance to go full circle and write the extended full version as I had always imagined it,’ Craig said. 

‘As the film cues themselves are quite short, they are only the length of the actual scene so usually under two minutes it was really a lovely experience for me to go back and write these themes in their fullest versions, which is how I always imagined them being when I started this 20 years ago.’

Craig paid a heartwarming tribute to his hometown when composing one of the movie’s most memorable songs, Glasgow Love Theme.

The track plays as Kiera Knightly’s character Juliet discovers her husband’s best friend is in love with her.

‘Of the original compositions for Love Actually, Glasgow Love Theme is one of my favourites. It was written here, in Glasgow, 20 years ago.

‘It became well loved at any concerts I performed. It’s really lovely to have this feedback from any listeners.

‘Glasgow has always been my home although I love to travel and be in new places and am very lucky my work has allowed me to do this over the years especially around Europe. 

‘It is a very vibrant and friendly city and it’s also a very direct place, people are endearingly honest and I think I wanted to capture the romance and honesty of the city with this theme.’

The film was Craig’s first score for a romantic comedy and Ricard Curtis gave him one piece of advice – not to worry about writing the comedy, but more to the emotion of the film. 

‘Richard is a fantastic writer and director and a really generous person to collaborate with,' Craig said.

‘We had lots of fun as well as lots of work and his warmth and encouragement extends to everyone in the process. 

‘I wrote to the heart of each scene whether it was Mark’s video scene where I composed what is now known as Glasgow Love Theme or Croissants In France for Aurelia. 

‘There was so much within each love story that the writing or the theme was intrinsically linked for me.  

‘There is also an element of more technical writing in more specific scenes, for example the airport finale scenes or the wrapping of the present in the department store. 

‘But the main dramatic moments are created and everything else follows from there.’

And just like 20 years ago all the composing for Craig’s new album was done in Glasgow. 

‘The new album has 15 tracks, each is a full extended orchestral version of an original cue or theme in the film,’ Craig said.

‘We have recorded them with a fantastic orchestra in Budapest and they have been mixed by Andy Bradfield in London.  

‘I think the unexpected cues to me like I’m in Love, where I was reviewing which cues to include when they came together as I was orchestrating the fuller versions was a nice moment.

‘I don’t know if my style has changed as such, I always try to write what I want to hear in the first place and so I think with this album the style is as honest I hope as I always have wanted to achieve.’

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