Hearne, Joachim, Perkinson, Singleton et al: Difficult Grace / Seth Parker Woods

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Difficult Grace, based on GRAMMY Award-nominated cellist Seth Parker Woods’ multimedia concert tour de force, conceived by and featuring Woods in the triple role of cellist, narrator/guide, and movement artist, is Woods’ debut album for Cedille Records.

Hailed by The Guardian as “a cellist of power and grace” who possesses “mature artistry and willingness to go to the brink,” Woods has established a reputation as a versatile performer straddling several genres. He is the recipient of the 2022 Chamber Music America Michael Jaffee Visionary Award.

Difficult Grace is a semi-autobiographical exploration of identity; past/present histories and personal growth that draws inspiration from the Great Migration; the historic newspaper, The Chicago Defender; immigration; and poetry by Kemi Alabi and Dudley Randall. The album features music written for and with Woods including the world premiere recording of the title work, Difficult Grace, by Fredrick Gifford (b. 1972) that layers solo cello, electronics, and spoken text (delivered by Woods) derived from Dudley Randall’s poem, “Primitives.” Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s (1932–2004) “Calvary Ostinato,” the all-plucked third movement from Lamentations Black/Folk Song Suite, references traditional African American music. Additional world premiere recordings include Monty Adkins’ (b. 1972) Winter Tendrils and Nathalie Joachim’s (b. 1983) The Race: 1915. Alvin Singleton’s (b. 1940) Argoru II and Joachim’s Dam Mwen Yo, featuring Joachim as vocalist, follow.

The program ends with a final world premiere: Ted Hearne’s (b. 1982) multi-movement, Freefucked, a suite of songs set to poems by Kemi Alabi, featuring Hearne on vocals and electronics on the final track, “After We Ruin." In its review of the live performance of Difficult Grace, The New York Times described Woods as “a cellist of prodigious technical gifts and sharp intellect... Woods is an artist rooted in classical music, but whose cello is a vehicle that takes him, and his concertgoers, on wide-ranging journeys.”

Product Description:

  • Release Date: April 14, 2023

  • Catalog Number: CDR 219

  • UPC: 735131921923

  • Label: Cedille

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Contemporary

  • Composer: Seth Parker Woods, Monty Adkins, Kemi Alabi, Fredrick Gifford, Ted Hearne, Nathalie Joachim, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Alvin Singleton

  • Performer: Seth Parker Woods, Ted Hearne, Nathalie Joachim