Harps get hip – QNS.com

Harps get hip

Erin Hill has taken her musical career to places that harpists don’t normally go.
Photo by Robert A. Ripps
By Tammy Scileppi

If you think harps and harp-playing belong to a different era, you haven’t experienced Erin Hill’s “alternative” take on the instrument.

The high-energy, multi-talented pop harpist and singer performs in a surprisingly wide range of musical genres—including pop, rock, Celtic, jazz, opera and even Broadway tunes—all of them with a unique twist.

Think Lady Gaga accompanied by harp.

Hill travels all over for events, gigs and concerts—from NYC to L.A. to London. Wherever she appears—at weddings, cocktail hours, parties, house concerts and public events—audiences are wowed by what they hear.

A big part of the appeal of Hill’s music comes from the blending of her instrument’s dreamy, ethereal sound with her soothing, expressive voice.

But don’t let the pretty harpist’s sophisticated air, or those long, flowy gowns, or that angelic voice fool you.

Every now and then, she reveals her edgier side. When you experience Erin Hill and her Psychedelic Harp, you’ll never look at harps the same way again.

That edgy spirit can be seen in the videos that Hill makes to go along with her music. You can check out her mind-bending music video “Giant Mushrooms,” shot entirely in Queens (at the home of a friend), at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiXNzHbMKLg

“Several friends starred in it alongside me, including the wonderful actress-singer Melissa Errico. My friend Michael O’Donnell, who was in the original Broadway cast of Sam Mendes’ ‘Cabaret’ with me, was the director, and we had the idea to set the video in the fifties—the golden age of science fiction,” said Hill, who hails from Louisville, Ky., but now lives in Queens.

“‘Giant Mushrooms’ is from my ‘Girl Inventor’ album, which has a sci-fi theme to it, in the tradition of David Bowie, who has always been one of my biggest inspirations,” she said. “After we shot the video, my friend Terry Bacon did these fantastic special effects for the mushrooms growing, and also worked some magic for a little nod to the great sci-fi movie ‘Village of the Damned.’”

For her “Lookout, Science” video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeIq1HaaiTA), set in 1960, Hill and director David Frame ventured out to other Queens locations.

“I once again recruited actor friends for this, including Lisa Roberts Gillan and Marni Nixon (who was the voice of Natalie Wood in ‘West Side Story’ and the voice of Audrey Hepburn in ‘My Fair Lady,’ etc.),” Hill said.

She added: “And my West Highland terrier, MacLeod, has a cameo in this one. You have to wait ‘til the very end, but he is a star!” They shot his outdoor scene in front of St. Luke’s Church in Forest Hills, but all the church interiors were shot at Hill’s church, Grace Lutheran on Union Turnpike, where she occasionally subs on organ.

Hill first discovered the harp at age 8, when she saw one in her piano teacher’s living room. “I thought it was the most beautiful, magical thing I’d ever seen, and I begged for lessons,” Hill recalled. “So that was the start of me playing and singing, writing songs, and then making up my own arrangements of the pop and rock songs I love so much.”

But Hill is also an actor, which is why she ended up moving to New York. She has appeared in several Broadway shows, as well as some movies and television. “Probably what I get recognized for the most is being The Pretty White Girl on Comedy Central’s “Chappelle’s Show,” she quipped. (She also wrote the music for that bit.)

These days, the artist is celebrating her new album, “Harp Town.” The album’s 18 tracks include her arrangements of songs by Smashing Pumpkins, Kate Bush, Adele, Radiohead, Lady Gaga, Tim Buckley, Alicia Keys, Roxy Music, Rihanna, ‘Til Tuesday, Leonard Cohen and U2, as well as classics like “La Vie En Rose,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Come Fly With Me.”

“People would ask me all the time, ‘Can I buy an album of your cover songs?’ And the answer was always, ‘I wish…’ And then last year, I got a call from the Los Angeles-based record label, Cleopatra Records, and they signed me,” said Hill.

In addition, she often gets her groove on at such popular venues around the city as Joe’s Pub in Manhattan. And you can also find her at some unusual Queens spots. Hill said she is looking forward to playing and singing at historic Aigner Chocolates in Forest Hills, Tuesday, Sept. 20, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

You can expect to hear her singing and playing a variety of music from the 1940s on up to songs by Lady Gaga. “And I always include a Celtic/Irish tune or two, and an opera tune, usually,” she noted. “I take requests, so I like to give the people what they want.”

The candy shop has every kind of the most wonderful homemade chocolate creations, and ice cream, as well as a wide variety of teas, coffees, hot chocolate, and iced beverages. Some seating is available and lots of standing (and candy browsing) room.

Ask her to play your favorite song, and she will likely come up with her very own version, on the spot. And you can even sing along. “Harp karaoke” anyone?

If You Go

Erin Hill

When: Tues., Sept. 20, from 6 pm to 8 pm

Aigner Chocolates / Krause’s Candy Kitchen

103-02 Metropolitan Ave.

Forest Hills, NY

(718) 544-1850


(Folks are encouraged to buy a piece of chocolate or a drink to have while listening.)


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