Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind Premieres at Hot Docs 2019

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, the feature documentary written, directed and produced by Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni, with original score by John Welsman, will have it’s world premiere at Hot Docs Festival in Toronto on April 27, 2019, with theatrical release to follow.


 Produced by Insight Productions, the film is an exploration of the career, music, and influence of legendary Canadian songwriter and recording artist Gordon Lightfoot. With unprecedented access to the artist, the documentary follows Lightfoot’s evolution from Christian choirboy to troubled troubadour to international star and beloved Canadian icon.

Welsman writes: What an honour to be asked to provide the underscore for a film about this hugely influential songwriter and musician. I studied his music very carefully in my youth, so for my contribution to the score, felt well equipped to model the sound and general tone of the many Lightfoot originals that form the backbone of the film’s soundtrack.

Here’s a piece we recorded but didn’t end up using in the film itself – an arrangement of Did She Mention My Name - guitar and 12 string guitar played by the fabulous Jason Fowler.

2018 Canadian Screen Awards Nomination for Best Original Music


Composer John Welsman has received a 2018 Canadian Screen Awards Nomination for Best Original Music for a Non-Fiction Program or Series for his score for Peter Raymont and Nancy Lang's feature documentary Where the Universe Sings – The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris, from White Pine Pictures.

The film is a portrait of the life and works of Lawren Harris, co-founder of the legendary Group of Seven. His life journey took him on a path that began in the poorer neighbourhoods of Toronto, continued to northern Ontario and the Rocky Mountains, and ultimately to the Arctic. Harris was a spiritual man always on the move for what he described as “the summit of his soul.”

Welsman says: This film is a definitive documentary on an amazing artist, and composing for it was both a joy and a challenge for me. The score is based on a series of upwardly moving scales, continually rising as they make their way to a higher place, mirroring in a sense Harris’ own spiritual journey.

Here’s a selection from the score called Ice Flows. This piece features the theremin, an instrument I chose as one of the main voices in the score’s palette for its other-worldy electronic vibrato and spiritual connotation.

Tempest Storm Premieres at Hot Docs 2016

Tempest Storm, the feature documentary directed by Nimisha Mukerji, with score by John Welsman, will have its world premiere at Hot Docs Festival on April 30, 2016.


Tempest Storm was mistress to both Elvis and JFK, and became an international star of the stage and screen in the 1950s. At the age of 87 she is considered to be the greatest living exotic dancer, but her success came at a great personal cost. Exploring her dramatic rise to fame in burlesque and her swift fall from grace after pursuing an interracial marriage, “Tempest Storm” is a feature documentary that bares all to tell the controversial life story of an American sex icon.

Welsman comments: 'Tempest endured traumatic experiences growing up in the deep-south town of Eastman, Georgia – experiences that scarred and set the course for her future life in Burlesque. The story of her childhood seemed to call out for a moody, blues-based score, for the cry in the bend of an electric slide guitar. So I started there... but Tempest is a determined, indomitable woman who refuses to see her life as a tragedy. She rises above, and there had to be music in the score that played to her strength and spirit as well.'

Here's the main theme...

Beyond What Remains Premieres at Newport Beach Film Festival

The feature drama Beyond What Remains, from co-directors Peter Tharos and Bassel Martin with score by John Welsman, had its world premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival on April 24, 2016.

Fernando runs a funeral home business in Mexico City, handed down to him through three generations. He’s accustomed to the grief of strangers. But not his own. Not when he has to prepare his father’s corpse for cremation. And not when his discovery of a family secret calls into question so much about the past. His father’s last wish compels him to embark on a transformative quest across remote Mexican landscapes with a street-hardened woman he’s never known — but who knows him.

Says Welsman: "This is such a quiet gem of a film, beautifully shot in black and white, with the feel of a European film from an earlier era. The score is one of the most understated I've ever composed, and when it did open up thematically, I happily took the opportunity to channel one of my earliest influences in film scoring - the great Georges Delerue. This a charming story, with powerful performances and exquisite visuals.  I wanted to give it a score that gave it some magic.'

Peter Tharos comments: The score for us was the golden key. It had to bring it all together; the sense of timelessness with currents of something 'beyond' - something that was spiritually transcendent. John composed a score that is captivating and enchanting. Audiences constantly remark on how deeply it touches them.

Here's a selection from the score...

And here's the main theme in travelling mode...

For those keeping track, that's Welsman playing accordion. (With apologies to all the REAL accordion players out there.)


Welsman Receives 2015 CSA Award

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John Welsman received the award for Best Original Music for a Non-Fiction Program or Series at the 2015 Canadian Screen Awards, this time for his score for Tales From the Organ Trade, from Associated Producers. The film and director Ric Esther Bienstock also received the awards for Best Writing and Best Editorial Research, and was given the Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program.




Composer John Welsman has received a 2015 Canadian Screen Awards Nomination for Best Original Music for a Non-Fiction Program or Series for his score for Ric Esther Bienstock's feature documentary Tales From the Organ Trade, from Associated Producers.

Welsman writes "This was a rare and welcome opportunity for me to work on a film about a subject that is as complicated as it is uncomfortable. This is not a black and white account of exploitation, but, rather, a nuanced and complex story that challenges our moral and ethical beliefs.'

This year, the Canadian Screen Awards will honour Ms. Bienstock with the Gordon Sinclair Award for Broadcast Journalism.

Here's the Main Theme from the score:



New Welsman Website

A quick note to announce our newly designed and updated John Welsman website – live now! New material, stuff to read, and photos to enjoy.

Designed by the wonderful Jacquelyn Brioux, with some beautiful new photographs by Emma McIntyre, like this one!

I hope you enjoy your visit!



Momsters Playground Wins Gold REMI at Houston

Momsters Playground

The dramatic short Momsters Playground, written and directed by Stephen Roscoe, and produced by Peter Gentile for MDF Productions, with score by John Welsman, has been award the Gold REMI Award for Best Short Comedy Film/video at the 47th Worldfest: Houston International Film Festival.

Civility and decorum are thrown to the wind when two trophy moms compete to prove that "my child is better than yours".



Welsman's Score for West Wind Wins CSA Award

Photo courtesy of G. Pimentel Photography

Photo courtesy of G. Pimentel Photography

John Welsman has received the 2014 CSA award for Best Original Music for a Non-Fiction Program or Series for his score for West Wind: the Vision Of Tom Thomson. The film was co-directed by Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont for White Pine Pictures, and the score features the fine musicianship of Winona Zelenka on cello, Anne Lindsay on violin, and Ronan Browne on pennywhistle. Says Welsman:

'The story of Thomson's life unfolds so elegantly in this film, and it features so many striking images of his beautiful paintings of the Canadian landscape. I felt very strongly that the music had to rise to the occasion. The film allowed for a score that could really sing and have its own role and character in the film. It was a joy to write, and so I'm doubly pleased that my peers thought it worthy of this award.'



Vanishing Point Receives 2014 Canadian Screen Award Nomination

Vanishing Point, the NFB feature documentary, featuring a score by John Welsman, has been nominated for the Ted Rogers Best Feature Length Documentary.  The film by Julia Szucs, Stephen Smith, and David Christensen, continues to garner attention worldwide for its exceptional storytelling. John writes,

‘This is an amazing film that’s definitely worth seeing! It was an unusual challenge to compose music for such a document of Inuit life in the face of climate change.’

Available now on iTunes and Netflix.

For more information, visit the film's website.



2014 Canadian Screen Awards Nomination for Best Original Music

Composer John Welsman has received a 2014 Canadian Screen Awards Nomination for Best Original Music for a Non-Fiction Program or Series for his score for West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thompson, directed by Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont (White Pine Pictures).

John says, "This was a career highlight for me – to compose music for the story of Tom Thompson’s life. It’s a beautiful film, and I feel honoured to have been a part of it."

Here’s a piece from ‘West Wind’, featuring Anne Lindsay on violin and Winona Zelenka on cello:



Hue: A Matter of Colour Premieres at Vancouver International Film Festival

Hue: A Matter of Colour, the latest documentary from acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Vic Sarin, with score by John Welsman, will have it's world premiere on Sept. 28, 2013 at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Giant steps have been taken world-wide to eliminate racism, yet an ancient and widespread form of discrimination called colourism -- when people from one race discriminate against others of that race based on their skin tone -- has been largely ignored. Hue, a personal point-of-view documentary, brings us face to face with the effects of this insidious form of intolerance.

Here's a selection from the score...


Kingston Paradise to Premiere at Caribbean Tales Film Festival 2013

John Welsman has recently completed the score for Jamaican director Mary Wells' dramatic feature Kingston Paradise, which will have its world premiere at CaribbeanTales Film Festival on Sept. 13Th. Shot in Kingston, Jamaica, it's an offbeat and compelling story of poverty and a couple's hopes and dreams for a better life.

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“I was truly honored to have John Welsman agree to do the score for ‘Kingston Paradise’, a tiny low-budget film from Jamaica.  To have a score that helped to tell a universal story rather than a totally local one, not just songs from the culture of the place in which the story is set, was very important to me. His wonderful work brought a depth to the film's story and drama that found music could not. The result is a beautifully nuanced film that isn’t necessarily representative of what’s ‘Jamaican' or 'Caribbean’, and yet, somehow, still is. The score solidified the three dimensional feeling of the characters and the intensity of a fictional reality that, as simply as it played and strummed, I found not only deeply moving, but helpful in creating a better understanding of my own story and film for me. Working with someone of John’s experience was an important and fascinating journey.”

Mary Wells

Director ‘Kingston Paradise’August 18, 2013

Here's a piece from the score featuring Nyabinghi drumming recorded in Kingston. In the scene, police armed with machine guns raid the ghetto in search their suspect, and an uproar follows, until the police are finally repelled from the scene...

Momsters Playground Premieres at Festival des Films du Monde 2013

The dramatic short Momsters Playground, written and directed by Stephen Roscoe, and produced by Peter Gentile for MDF Productions will have its world premiere at Festival des Films du Monde in Montreal this Sunday Aug. 25th. Civility and decorum are thrown to the wind when two trophy moms compete to prove that "my child is better than yours". With a score by John Welsman that's a modern day homage to the Warner Bros. cartoon era, Momsters is a cringingly funny (that's a new category) film. It will have a second screening on August 31st.


John Welsman Arranges for Madeleine Peyroux and The Art of Time Ensemble

When Andrew Burashko of the Art of Time Ensemble asked John Welsman if he'd like to do an arrangement for Songbook 7 with Madeleine Peyroux, he accepted immediately. “As a long time fan of Peyroux's, and hearing the song they'd chosen for me, 'What's the Matter With Love' by Fred Walker, I knew we had a potent mix of artist and song that seemed to cry out for an entirely new treatment. Rather than taking L'il Green's more sassy approach to the song, I imagined this as the singer's wistful lament for unrequited love – bittersweet as it moves effortlessly from heartache to hope and back again."

This isn't Welsman's first outing with the Art of Time – last year he did an arrangement of 'When I'm Sixty-Four' for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band show. A huge success in its initial run, it will be performed again this November 29th at Toronto's Koerner Hall.

Madeleine Peyroux performs Songbook 7 with The Art of Time Ensemble in Toronto on May 31 and June 1, at the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront Centre, 231 Queens Quay West.


The Art of Time's website.

Tales From The Organ Trade Award and Nominations

Ric Bienstock's Tales From the Organ Trade has won the Best Sign of the Times award at New Zealand's Documentary Edge Festival 2013. It has also received two nominations for awards at Milano International Film Festival 2013: Best Documentary, and Best Music/Song for John Welsman's score. 

The film investigates the black market in organ trafficking and ultimately leaves the viewer with the question: should people be allowed to sell their organs?

Tales From the Organ Trade has its North American premiere Sunday April 28th at Hot Docs 2013 in Toronto.

Mary Jo Vradis, on dialysis for nine years

Mary Jo Vradis, on dialysis for nine years

Tales From The Organ Trade Premieres at Hot Docs 2013

Tales From The Organ Trade, a feature documentary by award winning director Ric Esther Bienstock, narrated by David Cronenberg, and scored by John Welsman, will have its North American premiere at Hot Docs in Toronto on April 28, 2013.

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Tales from the Organ Trade is a gritty and unflinching descent into the shadowy world of black-market organ trafficking: the street-level brokers, the rogue surgeons, the impoverished men and women who are willing to sacrifice a slice of their own bodies for a quick payday, and the desperate patients who face the agonizing choice of obeying the law or saving their lives.

Listen to the Main Theme from the score:

Click here to view the trailer.

‘Babies: Born To Be Good?’ Airs on CBC ‘s The Nature of Things

The Stormy Nights Productions documentary ‘Born To Be Good?’ will air on CBC’s The Nature of Things on Oct. 25th. Directed by Eileen Thalenberg and produced by Gail McIntyre and Amélie Blandchard, BABIES: BORN TO BE GOOD? is a lively look at the moral trajectory of children from the first months of life onward. This film asks the questions:  “Where does our moral compass come from?  Where do our notions of good and bad, our sense of justice and fairness originate?  How do we decide who to trust, who to help?" Blending scientific research and scenes of children in their own environments, the documentary reveals that children seem to have a moral sense from the very get-go.

Here’s a piece from the score by John Welsman:

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Vanishing Point to Open Banff Mountain Film Festival

Hot on the heels of the film’s successful Ontario premiere at TIFF Bell Lightbox at ‘Planet In Focus’ on October 12, 2012, the NFB feature documentary ‘Vanishing Point’, directed and produced by filmmakers Stephen A. Smith and Julia Szucs, is scheduled to open the ‘Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival’ on October 27, 2012.

Peter Wintonick, International Editor of ‘Point Of View’ magazine, describes the film: "Excellent film, finely observed. Subtle honouring of a disappearing culture and a disappearing Gaia/Earth… the central character is very strong and wise, and curious. Beautifully shot and edited, in a natural, almost real time way.”


The film’s score, by John Welsman, features two rare instruments played by Mark Korven - the sarello and nyckelharpa. John reflects: “While researching instruments that might help convey the cold, austere ‘other worldly’ aspect of the far north, I chose the Sarello, which is a cross between a cello and a North Indian sarangi, built by luthier Tony Duggan-Smith and designed by Tony and Mark. It’s a one-of-a-kind instrument that sounds quite unlike any other on the planet. Its set of sympathetic vibrating strings under the main three strings give it an indescribable sound.” On a number of themes, Korven played the Swedish nyckelharpa, which has been likened to a ‘bowed hurdy-gurdy’. Here's a link to the website for the film.

Here's a scene from the film that features both instruments:

‘West Wind’ in Canada’s Top 5 Highest Grossing Films of the Week

White Pine Pictures ‘West Wind – The Vision of Tom Thomson’ was in Canada’s top five grossing films in its first week at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, and has now been held over for a third week. The  feature documentary, co-directed by Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont, examines the life and works of Tom Thomson, one of Canada’s most beloved artists. Performing on Welsman’s score for the film are Ireland’s Ronan Browne on pennywhistle, Winona Zelenka on cello, and Anne Lindsay on violin. Listen to the Opening Theme.

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