Moscow’s Tom Mawhinney considers his new choir songbook, We’ll Sing for Pleasure, We’ll Sing to Please Volume 1, to be one of the best things to ever happen in his life.
Mawhinney, a founding member of the Voices of Joy fundraising gospel choir, released the book on Sept. 9. In 2001 he took over as director once the founding director left and has been creating this songbook for the past 15 years.
Being a folk performer in the ’70’s through the ’90’s, Mawhinney released five LP albums of original songs and three of original children’s songs.
In 1992 Mawhinney took a year’s leave from his professional career of a clinical psychologist.
“I did a 10-province tour in 1992 and it was great but exhausting,” Mawhinney said. “I pretty much retired as a performer after that tour and stopped writing songs all together. I was very happy to re-start in 2005, and had good success with my choir performing the new songs.”
In 2010 Mawhinney left the choir as he had inherited a country home in Florida and started spending winters there, which is right when the normal choir season here occurs. Mawhinney didn’t stop writing, and some of the songs in the songbook are among the most recent he has written.
“I hadn’t ever thought of putting the songs together in a book,” stated Mawhinney. “Not until a friend of mine in the publishing business, John Rosseel, a member of a choir who helped me with song videos, pointedly said to me, ‘you need to put out a book,’ and so I did and couldn’t be happier with it.”
Mawhinney’s favourite song in the book is Lizzie and her Baby, a retelling of a key part of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the book to which Abraham Lincoln ascribed major influence in starting the U.S. Civil War.
“It’s a story where the slaves outwit the owners and traders, and help one of their members escape with her baby in her arms,” Mawhinney said. “The song is upbeat and interesting musically and I don’t think I have written better. The famed all-Black Tuskegee Golden Voices sang this song when they visited Kingston, Toronto, and London in 2018. I coordinated that tour and it was the first time the choir had ever sung outside the USA. Their singing my song was the greatest honour I have had bestowed on me in my entire life.”
Three of the songs in the book, A Welcome, Mon Aurelle, and Lullaby for Two Sisters, were written for Mawhinney’s goddaughter Katie, who took the cover photo of the book when he was visiting her on the West Coast. All three of those songs are about her children as they arrived in the world.
“As for special meaning,” stated Mawhinney. “I love the madrigal Soft, He Speaks, about the character Sancho Panza in the story of Don Quixote, built around the saying ‘soft and fair goes far,’ I wish more people knew about that principle.”
Up to this point there have been 17 performance groups, choirs mostly, who have sung Mawhinney’s songs. The point for Mawhinney in publishing at all is to have his songs sung.
“Feedback from choir members has been positive,” expressed Mawhinney. “One having said plainly ‘Your songs are fun to sing.’ So simply getting the book published represents success, as I see it. I hope to find ways to get it to choirs, any interest from members of choirs anywhere is welcome.”
As for inspiration for Mawhinney’s first songbook he said there is no single inspiration.
“There’s no single inspiration for writing these songs,” Mawhinney said. “As an old folkie I’m pretty insistent there be clear meaning and intent in the songs, unless they’re for humour. You might say my first inspiration was my mother, we used to sing together with her playing ukulele on long car trips, which provides some of the earliest memories I have. She and my father were both very supportive of my ventures in music and I am grateful for that. I’m 72 now and they’re both long gone, but I think they well might have imagined I would eventually have something to put in a book.”
“We’ll sing for pleasure, we’ll sing to please”, quoted from his recent song ‘A Joyful Noise’, is a watchword Mawhinney hopes readers will share.
For those interested more than half of the songs in his book are included, sung by a variety of choirs, on Tom’s YouTube channel.
“I have another 15 or so songs to put into a second volume in a couple of years,” stated Mawhinney. “And I have a few songs in the works now so the second song book will likely be bigger than this one.”
Those looking for more information on the book can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To visit his YouTube page visit www.youtube.com/channel/UCF9XsazeqHsytyuS4lM5p9g.