Four Celtic Voices with Celeste Ray & Erin Hill just hit #1 on the Billboard World Music chart with their debut album "Four Leaf Clover." They are also in the Top Ten on multiple Heatseekers charts, and in the Top 40 Independent Albums (May 2nd, 2009). Backed by drums and bass, the harp and the psaltery combine with vocal harmonies to play sparkling jigs and reels as well as haunting Irish melodies. Four Celtic Voices performs a mix of Celtic traditionals and contemporary Celtic originals, from “Danny Boy” and “Molly Malone” to original psaltery dances and the dream-like Celtic pop of “Angels.”
Celeste Ray, founding member of Four Celtic Voices, is a singer, composer and pianist who also plays bowed psaltery and harmonium. She has performed at Carnegie Hall under the direction of famed composer John Rutter; at WESAK festivals in California; at Government House in Brisbane, Australia; and recently as a guest artist for Pete Seeger in New York City.
Erin Hill is a singer, harpist, multi-instrumentalist and composer. She has performed solo at The Royal Albert Hall, and at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall, and regularly at the NYC Ritz-Carlton. Erin has sung and played with Enya, Cyndi Lauper, Kanye West, moby, Joan Osborne, Randy Newman, Dave Chappelle, Marshall Crenshaw, Martha Wainwright, Duncan Sheik, The Smithereens, Savoy, Julee Cruise, John Flansburgh (of They Might Be Giants), Lenny Pickett (of Saturday Night Live), and Levon Helm (of The Band). She plays regularly with Will Lee (of David Letterman), Jimmy Vivino (of Conan O'Brien), Kanye West (Live Earth, TRL, BET, etc.), G.E. Smith (of Saturday Night Live), and Garth Hudson (of The Band).
Celeste Ray began her musical studies at age six, influenced by parents who played classical piano and flamenco guitar. Celeste's imagination was captivated early in life by the piano, and later by the double-bowed psaltery, a 15th century instrument with an other-worldly sound sometimes described as “a Celtic violin harp.” Celeste showcases this ancient instrument in performance, as well as bringing the bowed psaltery to the public eye through educational workshops across the country. She received her degree in Music Performance from El Camino College and Sonoma State University, California.
Erin Hill’s television and film credits include singing solo on "Chappelle's Show," "The Chris Rock Show," and in Tim Robbins’ film "Cradle Will Rock" (she also appears on the soundtrack). She’s in the upcoming film "Clear Blue Tuesday" and has several original songs in the film. She played on the new soundtrack for "The Fantasticks," on Martha Wainwright’s album, in various commercials (Dunkin’ Donuts, Coca-Cola, Play-Doh, etc.), on MTV2’s “Wonder Showzen” and on the original Broadway cast albums of Sam Mendes’ "Cabaret" and "Titanic," where she originated the role of Irish immigrant Kate Mullins.
Celeste is a native of Los Angeles, but spent time in Australia, where she was commissioned to co-compose a musical and performed live there on the national station ABC (Australian Broadcast Radio). Celeste has received grants from the Arts Alliance of Ventura County and multiple grants from NYSCA, which she has used to produce concert series focusing on the performance and history of the ancient bowed psaltery and harmonium. Her journeys throughout the UK and Ireland provided a wellspring of sacred sources for her as a composer.
Erin studied voice with Marni Nixon and at L'Ecole Hindemith in Switzerland. Erin is a founding member of the band Wicked Felina with G.E. Smith, where she is a co-writer, co-singer, and plays harps, guitars, flute, accordion, and hammered dulcimer. She is also in The Dream Jam Band, which is produced by Rick Chertoff (Cyndi Lauper, Joan Osborne, etc.). As “Erin the Red,” she sings, plays harp, bass, keys, guitar and percussion, and is a songwriter in the band. The Dream Jam Band most recently appeared at Lollapalooza and on the Sprout network (PBS KIDS). Erin is working on an album for the Dream Jam label of Celtic songs for kids.
Celeste and Erin work with a variety of women artists on their Four Celtic Voices recordings, including Carol Crittenden, Leenya Rideout, Wendy Luck and Maria Johnson. Four Celtic Voices recently appeared as QVC's house band for their 24-hour St. Patrick's Day marathon, 2009, on national television.
Carol Crittenden, who appears on the “Four Leaf Clover” CD, was a featured soloist on the CBS television special “An American Christmas,” and has worked with the New Vic Theatre of London, in regional US tours and in various productions in New York City and Los Angeles, including the Shakespeare Repertory in New Jersey/New York.
Wendy Luck, also on “Four Leaf Clover,” has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall, the Rome Festival Orchestra in Italy and France, the Aspen Music festival, and has played with Ornette Coleman and opened for Julio Iglesias. She studied flute at the Conservatory in Nice, France with Jean-Pierre Rampal.
Press Quotes for Erin Hill & Celeste Ray
“Sold-out audience for Four Celtic Voices holiday show at The Egg” (headline)… “Playing flute, a Celtic harp and the bowed psaltery, the four women sang and played 12th century songs, traditional Christian melodies and contemporary fun originals recently written…. The combination of voices was rich with character… and wonderful mix of harp and bowed psaltery… Some original, some traditional, the rich, gentle tones of their playing along with their ear for each other filled every corner of the hall with a lush sound…. Hill played a wonderful and waltzy “Isle of Innisfree”…”
– The Daily Gazette, Albany, NY
"Beautiful! Erin Hill’s voice is exquisite; the words telling tales everyone wants to hear. The instrumental material melds into its required whole with quirky, painted details highlighting the surface. The totality makes a noise that cloaks the soul. Lovely...
– Rob Worby, Radio 3, BBC
“(Celeste Ray’s) voice is a warm and pleasant instrument. One of Celeste’s distinctive calling cards is her skill with the bowed psaltery…the sound is at once fresh and other-worldly.
-Los Angeles Times
"Hill is a standout... and dauntingly versatile..." "Erin Hill is lovely... and then there's the delicious sound of that harp!"
"The best part of the show was the moment when... Erin Hill, a fine harpist, raised her voice in solo..." "Erin Hill is lovely..."
-- New York Times
“In the hands of Celeste Ray, the psaltery became an instrument capable of fierce expression. The audience came alive with the traditional numbers, keeping the beat with clapping hands and tapping feet. Ray’s apparent enthusiasm for her music invigorated the small hall, and gave a taste of another time and place…the songs were all energetic, accessible, and beautiful.”
-Brooklyn Heights Press
"Erin Hill... is not only a wonderfully engaging performer but versatile as well, playing five instruments..."
--The Chicago Tribune
"The best performances are turned in by the versatile Erin Hill..."
Celeste Ray sang and played traditional Celtic tunes and original music on a bowed psaltery at Clark Hall last night and the audience gave the group a standing ovation.
- The Daily Southerner
"Hill hits the heights with great songs" (Headline)
"Hill let the songs speak for themselves... Her voice is lovely, fluid, and expressive... These original songs herald a major musical talent."
-- The Post-Standard, Syracuse
"Likely to cross over into New Age fandom is this pleasing homage to Celtic music, sounding so authentic that you almost feel as if you're in Ireland while listening to it… Combining instrumentals with vocal tracks, Ray is able to display both her skills with the bowed psaltery ("Psaltery Danse No. 1" is a knockout) and her wondrous voice, which is best showcased on "Blessing for Setting Forth."
-Alternative Rock Review
"Erin Hill lights up the stage..."
-- The Daily News, NYC
“An indie pop ace in the hole… Erin Hill’s voice is expressive and lovely. Erin shows an artist’s gift for knowing what each song requires vocally, and has the ability to deliver it… Erin’s wit is sharply evident throughout… quirky, psychedelic, and lavishly whimsical…”
– Expository Magazine
“Ray's instrument of choice is the bowed psaltery, and it creates an evocative sound that'll feel new to most of you. Ray has a voice that seems to have been ripped from an earlier age; her vocals -- and style of singing -- Whether or not you like Celtic tunes, this is accessible material, and it is consistently bright and engaging.”
-Ink 19 Review
"The invincible Hill... breaks into a fiery physical abandon when she's at the mike."
"Erin is enormously talented -- an exceptional singer, a fantastic musician, and... she has the beauty to go with it."
-- New York Newsday
"Celeste Ray has an ethereal, evocative compositional style"
-- Jay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra
"Erin Hill... has a voice to die for."
-- The Journal Star, Illinois
"I'm so happy Celeste Ray played the Bowed Psaltery for us - truly beautiful music"
-- Governor of Queensland Australia, Melbourne Cup Day, Brisbane, Australia
"Erin Hill... is well worth keeping your eyes on for her ethereal beauty, and your ears open for her lovely, liltingly pure voice. Her talent is prodigious as she plays eleven instruments, ranging from saxophone to harp."
-- The Herald, Connecticut
Lead Vocal Track Listing for “Four Leaf Clover”:
Erin Hill: lead vocal on Tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 11
Celeste Ray: lead vocal on Track 13
Carol Crittenden: lead vocal on Tracks 4, 7