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Definition: Beach, Amy Marcy from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US pianist and composer, also known as Mrs Henry Beach. She was one of the leading international composers of her day, influenced by Brahms, Debussy, and her US contemporaries writing in a romantic vein.

WorksOrchestralGaelic Symphony (1896, the first symphonic work by an American woman); Christ in the Universe for chorus and orchestra (1931); piano concerto.

Chamber string quartet, piano trio.

Other Mass in E; numerous songs.

Summary Article: BEACH, AMY MARCY (1867-1944)
from Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History

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.

See also:


  • Block, Adrienne Fried. Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian: An American Composer’s Life and Work. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Jenkins, Walter S. The Remarkable Mrs. Beach: American Composer. Warren, MI: Harmonie Park Press, 1994.
  • Axel Klein
    Copyright © 2008 by ABC-CLIO, Inc.

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