Hello! We recently inherited a “Sebastien Erard Maker by Special Appointment and the Majesty Royal Family Harp.” We have been able to discover that it was made in June of 1825, and are now looking to see if we can find someone to help with appraising it and perhaps doing some restoration. We are in the metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia area. Any help is greatly appreciated.
Sorry to be a party pooper, but it looks like the decision against restoring it was made earlier and removing the old strings which all get pretty tatty once they are defunct provides an interesting but clean corner piece/ornament. The soundboard is so split it wouldn’t take the strain and why spend thousands of dollars trying to restore and play when newer instruments are available – try not to sink good money after bad.
Nolan- It looks like someone did a partial restoration on it already. It looks like the soundboard is a replacement and that whoever did it used the old center strip on the new board. I don’t understand why there are no top strips on the board to cover the screws, or why the baseboard(the board the column sits on) does not have cutouts to accommodate the usual top strips.
The horizontal cracks in the soundboard are of no importance and do not weaken the board. If there were, or are, vertical cracks, running parallel to the center strip, then that’s another story. It’s of course impossible to tell from pictures how the action functions. It’s a very time consuming and expensive project to restore these old harps, and it’s probably better to just appreciate it as a decorative object.
These harps can be restored and make lovely playing instruments, for people who want their voice and feel – people who prefer modern instruments will prefer modern instruments, this doesn’t mean the old ones aren’t lovely, but they are different. Whether the restoration is worthwhile will depend particularly on the state of the mechanism – and how much you want a working antique. Well restored antiques sell for the same ball park price as new pedal harps, and most of that is the cost of restoration. They are usually described as Erard Grecians if you want to look up pictures.
A number of strange previous bits of work can be seen in the photos – the spacer at the top of the body, the soundboard as mentioned, the cylinders on the front of the base and the front feet look odd too. However, replacing soundboards is a not uncommon need on these elderly harps and only someone who saw the instrument could tell you if the work done had made a future rebuild harder or not.
Without strings to help hold the instrument together do be careful moving it to be sure the frame stays together and the joints aren’t overly strained.
Have you talked to anyone at the Atlanta Harp Center? I know that Tom Bell, harp technician, will be there in May. You may want to speak with him and have him examine this harp to let you know if he thinks that a restoration would be feasible. There are several old harps at the AHC currently, by their website, that may be of interest to you.
All the best,
Balfour, in NC
If you want to see it playable again, have it evaluated by Howard or Carl; then you will have an estimate to give to a buyer. “As is” the most likely market would be to a professional harp maker but he or she would probably not offer very much – a lot of potential work as Carl suggested. Howard is the closest to you, in Lynchburg, VA.
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