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Erin Hill

Christmas Harp

Review by Gary Hill

First of all, I have to admit that this album was actually released last year. Unfortunately, I got it after our December issue was live, and it didn't seem to make sense to review it for the February issue. So, I've been holding onto it all this time. Well, it's clearly worth the wait. Erin Hill is incredibly talented. (And just for the record, she is no relation - at least as far as I know.) For starters, harp is one of the most challenging instruments to play, and she is a master. She also provides all the vocals here (often multiple layers on one song). She handles that extremely well, too. I think this album will be a great addition to holiday playlists. That said, I think it might be stronger if the last two songs had been left off of it. Still, as good as this is, that's a minor quibble.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
What Child Is This?
This is so pretty. It's very sedate, and rather traditional and old-world in nature. The vocals are powerful. The harp is intricate and just about perfect.
Christmas Canon
Starting with a vocal laden section, this works out from there to pretty harp music. The familiar melodies work so well in this arrangement.  Multiple layers of vocals later weave a powerful and quite intricate tapestry.
My Favorite Things
I've always loved this song. In fact, John Coltrane's version might be my all-time favorite jazz cut. This arrangement is precisely what you'd expect given the two songs that preceded it. The cut is so effective in this format. It's one of my favorites here, too.
Carol of the Bells
One of my favorite holiday songs, this is so perfect here. This is another highlight of the disc for certain. It's so pretty.
Ave Maria
This isn't as big a hit with me. That's mostly because I'm not as big a fan of this. Also the vocals, as they should be, are more operatic, and not my style.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Now, this is more effective. It has an extended instrumental introduction, but then the vocals enter and carry the cut with no accompaniment for a time.
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
A purely instrumental number this is quite pretty. It's also classic.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Another gentle and pretty rendition, this isn't any kind of revelation. It's just an effective take on a holiday classic.
Silent Night
In some ways this kind of arrangement works better here than on some of the other tracks. Perhaps that's not an accurate statement. Maybe it's closer to say that this arrangement seems more natural for this cut. As you might guess, it's a particularly effective piece.
White Christmas
Hill puts in a pretty and rather playful performance of this number. I love the instrumental melody work here.
The Girl with the Flaxen Hair
This instrumental is quite intricate and pretty.
Pie Jesu
A far more classical piece, this doesn't work as well for as some of the rest.
 
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