what do we know about Lyon and Healy 15 style harps?

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    unknown-user on #75416


    carl-swanson on #75417

    This is not exactly a response to your question. But most harpist seem to think that a style 15 is smaller than a 17, which is smaller than a 22, which is smaller than a 23. None of this is true. The 15, 17, and 22 are exactly the same size, the difference being that the 15 has a straight soundboard and the 17 and 22 extended. The difference between the 17 and 22 is in the carving only. They are all semi-grand sizes. The 23 of course is a concert grand(47 strings) while the semi-grands are 46.

    Misty Harrison on #75418

    Some 15’s have 46 strings but some don’t. They made ones with 43 strings and also 44 strings, I think since I have seen some of these models. All the 15’s I’ve played have a great sound. Great harps. Somebody said they were basically an old version of the student model harp kind of like the 85 series but that may not be true. Great gig harps.

    unknown-user on #75419

    Very helpful indeed, Carl!

    barbara-brundage on #75420

    >They made ones with 43 strings and also 44 strings, I think since I have seen some of these models.

    Are you sure those weren’t Washburns, Misty?

    catherine-rogers on #75421

    I have two old color brochures from Lyon and Healy from the 70’s. They are identical except for the specs on the models. In one brochure the 15 is 69 inches high and weighs 65 1/2 pounds. In the other it is 71 inches high and weighs 76 lbs. Go figure. Wish the brochures had dates on them.

    In those same brochures the 23 is listed at 71 1/2 inches tall at 78 lbs. and then 74 inches tall and 81 lbs.

    The current specs on an 85 semigrand are 68 3/4 inches tall and 77 lbs.

    steven-todd-miller on #75422

    I have a 15 that was built in 1947; 46 strings, straight soundboard, original everything. It is a wonderful instrument. It was assessed before I bought it and the harpist there said the sound was so big she couldn’t believe it had a straight soundboard. The 15 has a very elegant and clean design that looks so classic in photos. The finish has aged to a beautiful golden color. The tone is very sweet; I switched to nylon strings in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd octave to help give it more ring as I personally like the bell-like quality. It is such a great size – I use it for all outdoor gigs, and when playing for 3+ hours as the tension is so light. When regulated, the tech loved the sound and suggested that 15’s were made with a more structurally sound neck prior to 1950.(?) I don’t know if my case is unique, but for me the 15 is a delight to play.

    carl-swanson on #75423

    The differences in height for the same model could be with and without a crown, which is about 2 inches high. A 12 pound difference between two 15’s sounds like a misprint, or someone simply guessing.

    15’s built before WWII had carving and a combination of gilding and bronze powder. After WWII they were simply ungilded turned columns. The 15’s that are pre-WWII may have been 45 or 46 strings, with just an overstring post for the top string(no discs). After WWII, they may have discs on the top string.

    Before WWII, Lyon & Healy had 4 different size harp frames. The 12 was the smallest. Then came the 14. After that, there were several numbers that are no longer made: style 16, 19, and the 15, 17, and 22, all of which were the same semi-grand size, with either a straight or extended board. The concert grands were the largest and included the style 3, 8, 11, 23, 26, and Salzedo model. Any variation in the height of the instrument from one model to another was simply a matter of adding more wood to the top of the column(the Salzedo model) or the addition of a crown.

    unknown-user on #75424

    Very interesting . . . thanks for the history.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #75425

    The 15’s have less bass without the extension of the soundboard. That makes them more in line with Erard harps. They can sound wonderful and like dreck, depending on the instrument. They are very individual. The Chicago model harps have the same quality but are uniform and good in sound. There is a clear difference between the straight and extended sound-board. The extension gives it the pear-shaped tone we strive for. With a straight soundboard, you have to work harder to project your bass tones. The harp then favors the middle octaves.

    The original Salzedos had very wide sounding-boards, so I wouldn’t say they were smaller, and they usually had wide string spacing in the bass. They may be shorter. All the harps are now bigger and heavier than they used to be. My harp has gained weight from 78 pounds when I ordered it, to 81 when I received to 84 pounds after rebuildings. I think lighter is better, even if it means replacing the neck.

    It’s all about the wood. I once did a harp and piano recital on a style 16, straight sound-board and gilded column, and that harp was hard to play. I had to really push to get the sound out of the tight response, but it projected extremely well, and balanced against the piano as well as a 23. Some of these older harps have a more piercing tone than the rounded one we are used to. A 14 is very small. A 12 is almost tiny. I have played the 19 for sale now at LH and it is a magnificent harp, not rebuilt. It may last a good while yet.

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