Amy Marcy Cheney was the first significant American woman composer. Born in Henniker, New Hampshire, on September 5, 1867, she moved with her family to Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1874 and to Boston in 1875. Beach displayed a remarkable musical talent from an early age, first appearing in public when she was seven years old. In 1883 she made her debut as a pianist in Boston. In 1885, she married Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach. Soon after, on her husband’s advice, she changed to composition, but she received little formal training. Amy Beach toured in Europe from 1911 to 1914, finally settling in Hillsborough, New Hampshire in 1916. She was an energetic promoter of her own works and of other female American composers, becoming the cofounder and first president of the Society of American Women Composers in 1925.
Amy Beach mainly wrote art songs and piano music, but it was with her Mass in E flat op. 5 (1890) and Gaelic Symphony op. 32 (1897) that she won acceptance and international success. In seeking an American style in art music she occasionally referred to Irish traditional music, which she considered the most traditional music in America. In works like the Gaelic Symphony and piano pieces like The Fair Hills of Eire op. 91 (1922) and the Suite for two Pianos Founded upon Old Irish Melodies op. 104 (1924) she used a number of Irish traditional melodies as thematic material, thereby expressing her conviction that American folk music was mainly derived from the Irish, a belief gained without any direct family connection to Ireland.
MUSIC IN AMERICA, IRISH
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