Orchestrated from the original piano suite by Damon Sink

About the Piece

Program Note for Les Rêves de Colombine, Op. 65

Amy Beach (née Marcy Cheney) is inarguably one of—if not the most—prominently recognized and performed American women composers. Beach premiered the original piano suite Les Rêves de Columbine on the program of one of her semi-annual recitals at the Hotel Tuileries in Boston on April 17, 1907. The five movements paint the picture of the dreams or reveries of a well-known commedia dell’arte stock theatrical character, Columbina. 

Columbina, which means “little dove” in French, was a female role of a comic servant, married to Pierrot (another character popularly depicted in programmatic romantic music) and the mistress of Harlequin. Historically, the role was limited to that of a dancer in the entr’acte, but developed over time into more of a story-driving character who may have been seen on stage carrying a tambourine—likely wielded to deflect an overly insistent romantic pursuer.

The five reveries, are

  1. La fée de la fontaine: “The Fairy in the fountain”—Beach’s notes describe the fairy as “capricious, fierce, and sullen as well as gracious.”
  2. Le prince gracieux: “The Gracious Prince,” a playfully regal, and somewhat formal dance movement. (listen for Columbine’s tambourine!)
  3. Valse amoreuse: “Waltz of love”—a lilting dance with Pierrot, or perhaps dreaming of another?
  4. Sous les étoiles: “Under the stars,” perhaps the most “dream-like” of all the movements, undulating and serene but with an intense rise and return.
  5. Danse d’arlequin: “Harlequin’s dance,” blending and reimagining several elements from earlier movements, interspersed with lively prestos and comic dances.

The original suite is, of course, a gem in its own right, but I believe that this modest set of orchestrated movements bring some extra color and vibrancy to the story of Columbine, and may offer more orchestras the chance to perform the music of a singularly inventive and brilliant American composer. The instrumentation and scope here are less expansive and more accessible than that of her Symphony Op. 32 in E minor (“Gaelic”), for example, which I originally came across in a search for music to program for the  Western Carolina Civic Orchestra. –Damon Sink, conductor, Western Carolina Civic Orchestra.


All Music guide by Joseph Stevenson. https://www.allmusic.com/composition/les-reves-de-colombine-suite-for-piano-op-65-mc0002376154

Wikipedia: “Columbina” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbina

Performance notes:

The fifth movement, Danse d’ Arlequin will be the most challenging, especially for younger string players. The whole work may be performed without second oboe doubling cor anglais; a few short passages from that part are also included in cues for other instruments.

Three movement suites are also possible, for example:

       I. Valse Amoureuse (or Le Prince Gracieux)

      II. Sous les étoiles

      III. La Fée de la Fontaine

About the orchestrator:

Damon Sink is a composer, conductor, producer and faculty member in the School of Music at Western Carolina University, where he teaches music theory and orchestration courses and conducts the Western Carolina Civic Orchestra. He holds a DMA in composition from the University, of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of music, where he studied with Joel Hoffman, Samuel Adler and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon.

In addition to his creative work as a composer, Dr. Sink is active in other areas of media production, video, film, and classical and jazz recording. He has served as a full-time music faculty member at Xavier University and The University of Dayton and founded dalSegno Media, an audio/visual production company. Other academic pursuits include topics in the history of music theory as well as the development of rich media modes of analytical presentation. He lives in Cullowhee, North Carolina


2 Flutes
2 Oboes (2nd doubling EH – optional)
2 Clarinets in B flat and A
2 Bassoons
2 Horns in F
2 Trumpets in B flat
2 Trombones
Percussion – Glockenspiel, Triangle, Cymbals, Tambourine, Bass drum

Perusal score:

About the Composer

Amy Marcy Cheney was born on September 5, 1867 in Henniker, New Hampshire, to a prominent New England family. Her mother, Clara Imogene (Marcy) Cheney, was a talented amateur singer and pianist. Young Amy was a true prodigy who memorized forty songs at the age of one and taught herself to read at age three. She played four-part hymns and composed simple waltzes at age four. By the age of six, she began studying piano with her mother and performed her first public recitals one year later, playing works by Handel, Beethoven, Chopin, and some of her own pieces. In 1875 the family moved to Boston, where Amy studied with the leading pianists. She made her Boston debut in 1883, and two years later played her first performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Wilhelm Gericke conducting Chopin’s Concerto in F Minor.

In 1885, she married Henry Harris Aubrey Beach (1843-1910), a physician, Harvard University lecturer, and amateur singer. Her husband requested that she limit her public performances, so she focused her musical energies on composing. She had only one year of formal training in harmony and counterpoint with Junius W. Hill. Beyond that, she embarked on a course of independent study, analyzing the compositions of master composers as models and translating theoretical works such as Berlioz’s treatise on orchestration. 

In 1892, Beach achieved her first notable success as a composer with the performance of her Mass in E-flat by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society. She became the first American woman to achieve widespread recognition as a composer of large-scale works with orchestra. Beach’s national reputation grew through her equally well-received Symphony, op. 32; Violin Sonata, op. 34; and Piano Concerto, op. 45.

Following the success of her Mass in E-flat, Beach received important commissions for vocal and choral works. In 1892, the Symphony Society of New York premiered her concert aria, Eilende Wolken, op. 18, the first composition by a woman played by that orchestra. For the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, she wrote the Festival Jubilate, op. 17. The 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha commissioned her Song of Welcome, op. 42. 

After her husband’s death in 1910, Beach sailed for Europe to establish her reputation there as both a performer and composer. She received enthusiastic reviews for recitals in Germany and for her symphony and concerto, which were performed in Leipzig and Berlin. She returned to the U.S. in 1914, where she concertized in the winters and composed in the summers. In 1921 she became a fellow at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where she composed most of her later works. 

Beach assumed many leadership positions, often in advancing the cause of American women composers. She was associated with the Music Teachers National Association and the Music Educators National Conference. In 1925, she was a founding member and first president of the Society of American Women Composers. Following her death on December 27, 1944, Beach’s royalties were given to the MacDowell Colony, as prescribed in her will. [Source: Library of Congress — loc.gov]

Performance Materials

Performance materials are available by contacting the orchestrator:



  I. La Fée de la Fontaine
 II. Le Prince Gracieux
III. Valse Amoureuse
IV. Sous les étoiles
V. Danse d’ Arlequin