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Old Churches

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Michael Colgrass

Michael Colgrass

General Info

Year: 2002
Duration: c. 5:10
Difficulty: II (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: American Composers Forum through Hal Leonard Music
Cost: Score & Parts - $50.00   |   Score Only - $5.00


Full Score
Flute I-II-III
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
Alto Saxophone I-II
Tenor Saxophone
Baritone Saxophone
Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion, including:

  • Bells I-II
  • Bowls I-II


  • Flute I, m. 24, add tenuto marking to beat one
  • Flute II, m.49, add "mp" to entrances / m. 53, add "cut off one by one."
  • Flute III, m.49, add "mp" to entrances / m. 53, add "cut off one by one."
  • Oboe, m. 24, add tenuto marking to beat one.
  • Bassoon, m. 11, add diminuendo marking / m.18, add tenuto markings to eighth notes on beat four / m.19, add tenuto marking to beat one / m. 27, add "mf" to the entrance.
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet I, m.29, remove tie over the bar line into m.30
  • B-flat Bass Clarinet, m.19, add tenuto marking to beat one / m.27, add "mf" to the entrance.
  • Tenor Saxophone, m.11, add diminuendo marking / m.19, add tenuto marking to beat one / m.27, add "mf" to the entrance / m.40, add "f" to the entrance / m.52, add "as long as possible on fade"
  • Baritone Saxophone, m.19, add tenuto markings to "and" of beat four through beat two of m.20 / m.20, extend slur from beat three to beat one of m.22 / m.27, add slur from beat four to beat one of m.29 / m.52, add "as long as possible on fade"
  • Trumpet III, m.24, add tenuto marking through beat two m.25
  • Trombones I-II-III, m.11, add diminuendo marking
  • Baritone B.C., m.40, change first beat to B natural (M2 higher)
  • Baritone T.C., m.40, change first beat to C sharp
  • Tuba, m.52, add "p" to half note entrance
  • Bells, m.49, add "mp" to entrances / m.53, add "mp" to entrance.
  • Bowls, m.53, add "mp" to entrance.

Program Notes

According to composer Michael Colgrass, Old Churches is one of the most challenging pieces he can remember writing. His goal was to create music that was interesting, expressive and challenging, yet playable by students in the early stages of performing on their instruments and who are also unfamiliar with modern music techniques.

His solution was to write a work based on Gregorian vocal chant with unison melodies. Playing in unison helps student musicians feel more confident, and allowed Colgrass to copiously double the melodic lines. The tempo is slow; the phrases are all in quarter and eighth notes, and the harmonies are simple. Some easy graphic notation and chance techniques are employed, such as pitches played without rhythm, and a murmuring effect that simulates the idea of voices echoing in monastic churches. Colgrass hopes that Old Churches is a piece that conveys emotion at the same time it makes young bands sound good.

Old Churches uses Gregorian chant to create a slightly mysterious monastery scene filled with the prayers and chanting of monks in an old church. Gregorian chant is ancient church music and that has been in existence for over 1500 years. The chant unfolds through call and response patterns. One monk intones a musical idea, then the rest of the monks respond by singing back. This musical conversation continues throughout the piece, with the exception of a few brief interruptions. Perhaps they are the quiet comments church visitors make to one another.

- Program Note by Michael Colgrass

Commercial Discography

State Ratings

  • Texas: II. Complete


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Wayne (Neb.) State College Symphonic Band (Josh Calkin, conductor) - 20 April 2021
  • Truman State University (Kirksville, Mo.) Concert Band (Curran Prendergast, conductor) – 4 March 2020
  • Dordt University (Sioux Center, Iowa) Campus-Community Band (Onsby Rose, conductor) – 3 March 2020
  • All-Henrico County (Henrico, Va.) High School Band (Brian A. Coffill, conductor) – 23 January 2020
  • University of Kansas (Lawrence) University Band (John Leonard, conductor) – 4 December 2019
  • Kennesaw (Ga.) State University Wind Symphony (Debra Traficante, conductor) – 18 November 2019
  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Symphonic Band (Cliff Croomes, conductor) – 19 November 2019
  • State University of New York, Fredonia, All College Band (Darryl Warren, conductor) – 2 October 2019
  • University of Florida (Gainesville) Monday Night Concert Band (Alyssa Arkin, conductor) – 24 April 2019
  • Thiel College (Greenville, Penn.) Concert Band (Brian T. Harris, conductor) - 7 April 2019
  • Peabody Conservatory (Baltimore, Md.) Preparatory Wind Band (Karen Seward, conductor) – 12 May 2018
  • University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) Red Band (Tim Pardue, conductor) – 4 March 2018
  • New England Conservatory (Boston) Senior Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble (Toby Forman, conductor) – 6 March 2018
  • The Ohio State University (Columbus) University Band (Onsby Rose, conductor) – 1 March 2018
  • Association of Texas Small School Bands (ATSSB) Concert Band (Matthew McInturf, conductor) - 17 February 2018 (2018 TMEA Conference, San Antonio)
  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) Gold Campus Band (Cory Near, conductor) – 30 November 2017
  • Arkansas State University (Jonesboro) Symphonic Winds (Sarah Labovitz, conductor) – 9 November 2017
  • West Virginia University Symphonic Band (Lindsey Williams, conductor) - 10 October 2017
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory Wind Ensemble (Joseph Parisi, conductor) – 14 March 2016
  • Atascadero (Calif.) Community Band (Garson Olivieri, conductor) - 17 May 2015
  • Wheaton (Ill.) North High School Concert Band (Jon Noworyta, conductor) - 3 March 2015

Works for Winds by This Composer