At the time, Dr. Donelson was a student of Dr. Paul Barnes, Professor of Piano and head chanter at Lincoln’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Also at this time, Dr. Barnes’ piano studio fostered a unique community of Orthodox and Roman Catholic musicians who all had profound appreciation for their respective churches’ sacred music heritage. Dr. Donelson had also recently founded the Cor Immaculatae Schola Cantorum at the UNL Newman Center to sing Gregorian chant for celebrations of the novus ordo Mass in Latin. This setting, combined with collaborative input from Ben Whitener, choir director at St. John of Kronstadt Orthodox Church, led to the first “Gates of Repentance” sacred chant concert in March of 2006, hosted by the UNL Newman Center.
This Lenten-themed concert featured the Cor Immaculatae Schola Cantorum, St. John of Kronstadt Orthodox Church parish choir, Sacred Heart Schola, and Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church parish choir and chanters. The audience, which filled the nave of the Newman Center until there was standing-room only, heard the ancient voices of Byzantine, Znamenny, and Gregorian chant, as well as more modern settings by Rachmaninov and Palestrina.
In 2007, the desire to repeat the event was bolstered by the visit of His All Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The good will
between Roman Catholics and Orthodox generated by this event, as well as a shared date for Pascha, gave this year’s event special meaning.
Over the past four years, the concert has featured choirs not only from the prior mentioned churches, but also from St. Mary Orthodox Church from Omaha, St. Teresa Catholic Church in Lincoln, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in nearby Denton, Nebraska, the seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter which celebrates the Tridentine Mass. Father Peter Mitchell, chair of the Diocese of Lincoln Ecumenical Commission has always offered his generous support, as well as Father James Dank of St. John of Kronstadt Orthodox Church, Father Nicholas Klodnicki (retired) of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, and Father Don Hock of St. Mary Orthodox Church. The event has also been honored twice with the presence of His Grace Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lincoln.
A tentative date of Friday, March 26th has been set for the event in 2010.
Glory to God for this celebration of the great sacred music traditions of Christian East and West!
By Natanael Perez and Ben Whitener
Click here to view a gallery of photographs from the concert