Amy Cheney Beach
Documentary in Production
Amy Cheney was born September 5, 1867 in Henniker, New Hampshire. She would become one of the most respected and accomplished American composers of her time. As a pianist she had her debut in The Boston Music Hall at the age of 16 and at 17 she appeared with the Boston Symphony Orchestra performing the Chopin Piano Concerto #1. Beach began composing when just 4 years old. At age 25 she was commissioned to write a choral piece for the opening of the Women’s Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Three years later her Gaelic Symphony was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. Beach became a national symbol of women’s creative power and was the dean of American women composers.
However, Beach’s story is not just about her musical accomplishments. Equally important was her inner strength to succeed in a mans world. Many were the road blocks put in her path. As a child, her mother would not even let young Amy play the piano, despite obvious signs of her musical gifts. She was never allowed to expand her piano education by pursuing study in Europe. At eighteen she married Doctor Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, a prominent Boston physician, twenty-four years older than she. Though he encouraged her composition, he also made her give up concertizing and public performance. It would not be until after his death in 1910 that she would resume her life as a concert pianist, regularly touring across the United States and Europe to great acclaim. And while he allowed her to compose she was denied the opportunity to study composition. As a composer she was self-taught because there was no other option. Despite these barriers, she would ultimately come to be known as America’s greatest woman composer of classical works.
Though Amy Beach was indeed a woman of the world, she also continued her connections to New Hampshire. Her family moved to Boston when she was four years old. But in her later years she spent summers in Hillsborough and at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough where she was an early supporter, contributing time and money to the Colony in the its important early years, willing the rights to her compositions to the Colony upon her death.
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John Gfroerer, Project Director, Accompany Video Production, Concord, NH, he will be producer/director for this documentary. He is the owner of Accompany, a video production facility based at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. He has produced over 40 documentaries, several funded in part with grants from New Hampshire Humanities, including, "Sherman Adams, The Yankee Governor" "Powerful as Truth, William Loeb and 35 Years of New Hampshire" and "Meetinghouse, the Heart of Washington, NH" His most recent documentary, "Restoration" aired in January, 2019 on New Hampshire Public Television.
Virginia Eskin, Project Consultant, Pianist, Beach Historian, Keene, NH is a concert pianist who has performed with ensembles and orchestras around the world. She began performing and recording compositions by Beach in the 1970s, and was the founding source for the collection of Beach materials at the University of New Hampshire. She has recorded more compositions by Beach than other pianist. She is a co-producer for this project and the primary musical interpreter/analyst bringing a deep, experienced perspective on Beach,
Sarah Gerk, Project Historian, Professor of Musicology, Binghamton University, NY. Sarah brings historical and humanities perspective. She has studied the life of Beach and written a thesis on Beach’s Gaelic Symphony.