All College


“I’ve been a church choir director and singer for 40 years,” says Mark Donnelly (’89) in the above video, chronicling his musical career. “Through all those years conducting and performing, God was preparing me to become a composer.”

Over the course of the video, Mr. Donnelly — famous in parts north for leading crowds in the singing of “O Canada” at Vancouver Canucks’ home games — describes his experience as an opera singer, an actor, and a choirmaster, culminating in his work as a composer, beginning in his early 50s. The video features a choir (consisting of several alumni family members and Donnelly family friends) performing some of his sacred compositions. “If we’re made in the image and likeness of God, for us to fulfill our mission we must continue to create,” he says.

For his model and inspiration, Mr. Donnelly turns to the Church and its rich history of sacred music. “I look back at the music that the Church says is the highest form, that is Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony, as exemplified by the classical Roman school whose greatest proponent was Palestrina,” he says. “Those are my two main pillars of how I write.”

Amid photos from Mr. Donnelly’s days on the California campus, the video also discusses how his time at the College would help shape his future professional and personal life. “When Catherine (Becher ’87) and I first met at Thomas Aquinas College, the first thing we talked about was music,” he recalls. “The music wound up being not simply a conversation starter. It was a big part of my life, and music was a big part of her  life. When we started having children, well, music was a big part of their lives, too. Church music formed our family.”

The family seeks to “participate and assist as best we can in showing the beautiful,” Mr. Donnelly explains. “I write music that’s in this time but not of it … I want it to be something that can help enlighten the soul so that the soul can come closer to God.”