Obituary: composer Michael Colgrass, 87

Posted on: July 9, 2019

“Michael Colgrass, a Pulitzer Prize-winning classical composer who often highlighted percussion instruments in his works and sometimes stripped to his shorts and stood on his head while carrying the message of music to skeptical students and listeners, died July 2 at a hospital in Toronto,” writes Matt Schudel in Sunday’s (7/7) Washington Post. “He was 87…. Mr. Colgrass was a jazz drummer during his youth in Illinois, then a versatile percussionist who performed with orchestras and in the first Broadway production of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story.’ He composed orchestral and chamber works, operas and other works for chorus and solo vocalists…. [In 1977] Mr. Colgrass debuted ‘Deja Vu,’ a single-movement concerto … first performed by the New York Philharmonic. The work featured timpani, vibraphone and a variety of more obscure instruments and percussive effects…. ‘Deja Vu’ was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1978…. Mr. Colgrass studied acting, clowning and comic traditions and became interested in hypnosis. (He once hypnotized members of an audience before a performance.) … In 1966, [he] wrote one of his best-known works, ‘As Quiet As,’ which was recorded by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.… Survivors include his wife of 52 years, the former Ulla Dahgaard, a music journalist, and their son, Neal Colgrass.”

Posted July 9, 2019