Mark Emerson Donnelly: Catholic Composer

Vancouver, British Columbia


22% funded

Donate Now
$12,500.00 CAD goal
days to go
Campaign ended.

Peer-to-peer fundraising

Create a personal goal to help raise money for this fundraiser. Learn more

Create a peer-to-peer fundraiser

Mark Emerson Donnelly: Catholic Composer


22% funded

Campaign beneficiary:

Mark Emerson Donnelly

Created By:

profile image

Category: Faith & Family

Start Date: June 20, 2019

My prayers are with all of you, especially those whose lives and livelihoods have been most deeply affected by this pandemic. God bless you! Mark

UPDATE ON PROGRESS TOMORROW (Palm Sunday) AND ANNOUNCEMENT COMING SOON! On WonderWe and through other sources, we've raised about half of the $12,500 for this project. Filming and recording took place Feb 1. Please consider helping with your prayers and contributions, so we may complete this work. God bless! Mark 

HI! I'm Mark Emerson Donnelly. I've been a professional musician for 40 years. I've done lots of stuff: opera, recital, musical theatre, conducting; whatever it takes to support my wife, Catherine, and our nine children.

One thing that has been a constant in my musical life is Traditional Catholic Church music; specifically, Gregorian Chant and Classical Roman polyphony. For the past ten years, I’ve been composing in that style* fairly consistently. My setting of the Pater noster (Our Father) is an example of how I write. For more examples, go to

   "Mark's work is of the highest quality. More people need to hear his music. It will change and move them in a very positive way.  Beautiful music, extremely well-crafted."

          - Peter Allen, international film & television composer

Though I have written and arranged non-church music, I believe writing sacred polyphony is the primary mission on which God has called me to embark.

   “I have experienced Mark’s sacred music for many years. In both spirit and quality, he is truly keeping the great Catholic musical tradition alive. His composing is certainly worthy of any and all patronage and support.”

        - Most Rev. J. Michael Miller, CSB

       Archbishop of Vancouver, BC Canada

I have produced a significant amount of music, and I know I have more give. But, RIGHT NOW, the challenge is to introduce this music to the world.

The Project: Four Professional Videos

Production Budget: $12,500

   The beginning of this process is to produce high-quality video recordings of some of my compositions. These will be used to spread awareness and interest in my work, and especially to present my music to professional ensembles (think of groups like the Tallis Scholars, Chanticleer, the London Oratory Schola Cantorum, etc.) for their consideration in their own future performances and recordings. Their performances will expose their audiences to my music, thus expanding my own base of supporters, and furthering the appreciation of my music as part of these great ensembles’ repertoires. 

   These videos are critical to launching my music into the public realm, which is why I am asking for your support today. Everything is in place for filming to begin February 1, 2020.

All we need are the funds.

Would you please help me in this grand endeavour?

   After receiving communion and returning to my pew, I heard this luminous music [O Sancta Trinitas (2019)]! I wanted to know who the composer was, thinking it was Palestrina or one of his contemporaries. After consulting the bulletin, I was blown away to see that it was written by our own choir director, Mark Donnelly!”

          - Mazoe Kaufman, professional sacred artist

Here is the plan for the first video project:

       Video 1: Pater Noster/Ave Maria (double-motet) – my original polyphonic version based on the traditional Gregorian chants.

       Video 2: Missa “Sicut cervus” Kyrie & Gloria – my imitation mass based on Palestrina’s timeless double-motet Sicut cervus/Sitivit anima mea. 

       Video 3: Memento verbi tui (motet) – my polyphonic setting of the Gregorian chant Communion verse, 20th Sunday after Pentecost (26th Sunday in Ordinary Time).

       Video 4: Trailer –  interviews explaining Why I compose the Way I Do*; examples drawn from the first three videos

Production budget: $12,500.

   These videos are critical to launching my music into the public realm, which is why I am asking for your support today. Everything is in place for this to start February 1, 2020. 

All we need are the funds.

God bless! Mark

* Functional Harmony: Why I Compose the Way I Do.

Here’s a super simple way to understand Functional Harmony:

From the beginning of a piece of music, every note and chord leads the listener, in an unconscious way, to the end of the piece. 

The degree of skill and inspiration of the composer determines how well he or she succeeds in producing something people want to listen to.

Here’s a slightly more involved way to understand Functional Harmony:

Pretty well every note and chord has its purpose; it has a function in the greater whole of a given work, as it proceeds from beginning to end. 

This is how Palestrina and Mozart composed. 

   However, after Beethoven died (d. 1827), and all the way up to the present day, most composers write notes and harmonies in an increasingly non-functional way, creating music that is either 1) dissonance without resolution (an extreme example being atonal music) or 2) harmonies primarily intended to create an ambience, resulting in dreamy, sentimental or melancholy music; like Romantic (19th century), jazz and pop music. 

   The latter of these can be affecting or pretty, but it is not always conducive to bringing the listener out of himself  (e.g., As Time Goes By, Yesterday, Every Breath You Take; need I go on?!). It is music that fosters what St. Augustine refers to as an “incurvatus in se,” a turning inward upon oneself rather than outward toward God and others. This is what Benedict XVI calls “deceptive beauty;” it fails to edify and elevate the listener. 

Sadly, when composers use these more modern compositional techniques in church music, they can rob their listeners of a truly edifying or elevating experience. To avoid this tragedy, I reject these techniques in my liturgical music. (I can use them, and sometimes do, sparingly, in my secular compositions, BUT NOT FOR CHURCH.) I see functional notes and harmony as integral to my liturgical music, because it is this compositional practice that can most effectively lead people out of themselves and point them heavenward. 

   For me, it always gets back to leading souls to God!

   Per J.M.J.


New to WonderWe?

Sign up now to create action and raise money for social impact.

Sign up

Donors 9