New album Grace Griffith

After battling Parkinson’s for more than fifteen years, folksinger Grace Griffith was determined to record one more album. Musicians who offered their services for the new recordings were: Lenny Williams (piano), Al Petteway (guitar), Sue Richards (Celtic Harp), Chris Biondo (bass and percussion), Marcy Marxer (guitar, flute, percussion), Larry Melton (upright bass) with background vocals by Cary Creed, Lynn Hollyfield and Jody Marshall. The result is a wonderful new Celtic folk album: Passing Through.

Grace Griffith

Grace Griffith

Eva Cassidy adored the music of Grace Griffith, as did her friend Elaine Stonebreaker (who took the picture that ended up on the Songbird album). Together they went to see her perform in Farthing’s Ordinary Tavern in St. Mary’s City, Maryland’s colonial capital. Eva admired Grace’s musical style and her controlled way of singing and she would attend her concerts whenever she got the chance. The respect was mutual.

In 1996 Eva was too ill to leave the house and her mother Barbara thought it would be a good idea to invite Grace Griffith to their home. Grace found Barbara’s message on her answering machine: ‘My daughter Eva is very ill, and it’s all terribly sad and Eva loves your singing and would appreciate it very much if you could come and sing for her.’ Grace immediately called back and made an appointment to visit the Cassidys with her friend and colleague Marcy Marxer.

When Grace and Marcy arrived Eva was sitting in her wheelchair in the living room, having summoned all of her strength to leave her bed. Dan, who had just finished his violin parts on ‘I Know You By Heart’, and Hugh joined them on his cello. It turned out to be a glorious autumn afternoon full of beautiful music. Eva was unable to play or even move but she used her last reserves of energy to sing with her ‘angel brigade’, as she called them. Their voices like a heavenly choir, Grace, Marcy and Eva harmonised their collective repertoire of folk songs. Eva asked  for ‘My Heart’s In The Highlands’, a ballad by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, which they sang multi-parted, accompanied by Grace and Marcy’s guitars, Hugh’s cello and Dan’s violin.

 Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,

The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;

Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,

The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

 

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;

My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;

A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,

My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

 

Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow;

Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;

Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;

Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

 

Grace Griffith in garden

Grace Griffith in garden

Together they created an ethereal, almost other-worldly sound. Barbara then made a request: ‘We are not sure whether Eva will still be with us at Christmas. Can we sing a Christmas song together?” She handed Grace and Marcy the lyrics of a song that she knew from her childhood: the German language version of ‘Silent Night’. They sang the first verse in German and the rest in English. The Christmas carol about the birth of a child, who would also die at the age of 33, was the last song that Eva would ever sing.

Leave a comment!

Your email address will not be published.