John Pratt Harp Company

 

John Pratt Harp Company

 

About Us

 

 

The focus of our work is to carry on the Pratt family harp traditions, to craft the finest harps anywhere, and to do it for the most reasonable cost possible. 

 

My siblings and I grew up being surrounded by the harp world.  My mother was a professional harpist, and a harp and music teacher.  My father, Samuel O. Pratt worked for the Lyon and Healy Harp Company for about 20 years, during which time he managed the Los Angeles Lyon and Healy office, then the Lyon and Healy factory in Chicago, and finally the Lyon and Healy New York City Office. 

While working for Lyon and Healy, he designed the original “Troubadour” lever harp (only lever harps weren’t yet called “lever harps” then), which was the first really practical non-pedal harp.  My father also designed the original Lyon and Healy style 30 pedal harp—the first modern style pedal harp design.  As harping history testifies, the advent of the lever harp or “Troubadour” rather marked a turning point in interest in learning and playing the harp, promoting tremendous growth in the harp world.

  About 1973 Sam decided to work independently from Lyon and Healy, and started the Samuel O. Pratt Company, doing regulations and repairs for pedal harps, and dabbling in harpsichords.  At this time he also developed his own lever harp called the “Dauphine.”  He based this design on the style of an old French harp in the traditional European “Ram’s Head” design that had come to his shop, and which served as the inspiration for the “Dauphine.”

Sam and Louise Pratt,

about 1950

Samuel O. Pratt, professional

photo about 1961

 

 

I worked with my father for a period of time in his company, where he taught me and my brother pedal harp maintenance, minor and major pedal harp repairs, as well as harp construction.  Sam continued his work until about 1977, when he was obliged to discontinue steady work for health reasons.

Certain aspects of the basic Dauphine design were very appealing:  the straight fluted column, the “ram’s head” neck/column top, and the flat-sided body.  I had considered for years how to design a similar, though improved version of this instrument.  One very attractive aspect of this basic design was that this harp style has remained virtually non-exploited by modern harp designers.  It seemed that the traditional Celtic or Irish harp designs (with a curved column and a peaked column top) had been developed and exploited to the point where it seemed impossible to come up with a new design that would be significant enough to have any semblance of uniqueness.  I didn’t want to design a harp that was an imitation of other instruments or designs.

 

We had attempted also something novel on the Dauphine in the waning years (before my father’s health became bad, and we siblings began other careers), and that was to give it an extended soundboard.  Such a thing is very rare in lever harp design, but it still can greatly improve sound and appearance, not to mention contribute to the uniqueness of the instrument. 

The new design therefore had to have the following characteristics:

 

 Structural Integrity to endure

 A base of substance—more than just the “slab base” of the Dauphine.

 String spacing very similar to typical pedal harps.

 String length sufficient to have good tension for a lively response.

 Use concert harp strings.

 A veneered, spruce soundboard just as in a concert harp.

 An extended soundboard for sound quality, appearance, and uniqueness.

 Metal string eyelets to better transmit the sound to the soundboard.

 Desired sound of the instrument to emulate that of a concert grand pedal harp as much as possible.

 Good bass response with a rich bass sound.

 This harp was not to be a “folk harp,” but have more of the feel and sound of a pedal harp

 Quality levers.

 Attractive appearance showing artisanship—that is, no “assembly line” appearance.

 No wood stain was to be used to achieve a particular finish—simply clear finish over genuine hardwoods available in a variety of colors and textures.

 

Click on the image above to see an old magazine ad for the “Dauphine

 

The last point above is an important one.  How many times had we been confronted with fixing a blemish or minor damage on a harp that had a stained finish?  Repairing such a blemish such that it is impossible to detect is very difficult.  Actual hardwoods and hardwood veneers would be much more attractive and “real” looking than “imitating” the finish through the use of stain.  A stained finish is not actually a real “mahogany,” “cherry,” or “walnut” finish, but something that attempts to duplicate the color, but which misses the overall appearance of the wood with its grain, tactile properties, depth, curl, reflectivity, etc.  Stained finish just can’t compare with the real thing.

Therefore, if you purchase a Pratt harp in “cherry” finish, you are getting actual cherry wood, not some imitation stained finish.  Likewise if you purchase a harp in walnut, African bubinga, zebrawood, curly maple, sapele, birds eye maple, or any other hardwood or hardwood veneer that we may consider, you are getting the real wood, unchanged by stain or paint.

The fact that no stain is used, coupled with lacquer finish where each new coat dissolves into the same clear finish of previously applied coats, lends itself to a finish where one can repair minor dings and blemishes very easily—and most of the time invisibly. 

So with these design parameters, the Chamber Harp was born.  The above design parameters represent a vast improvement over the original Dauphine, which we feel has resulted in success for the Chamber Harp.  The first two prototypes were built in 1990, and sold that fall.  In the ensuing years, several improvements were made, though these were minor and generally cosmetic.  The Chamber Harp has now been in production for over 23 years—much, much longer than the Dauphine.  Our harps have proven durable, and the increasing demand has kept us very busy.

 

Louise Pratt professional photo,

About 1960 or so.

While the Chamber harp as a lever harp is well suited for beginners, we find that it is also filling a long-awaited niche in the harp world of a very nice non-pedal harp for not just young or beginning harpists, but also older or more accomplished harpists as well who want a nice, attractive instrument, but who do not want the expense, weight, or trouble of a pedal harp.  We refer you to some of the images in the photo gallery of the special harps or custom work.

 

 

My late sister, Kira Pratt Davis (January 1856-July 1997), playing the harp.  Kira loved to sculpt, paint, draw, write, dance, sing, and play Irish and folk music.

Since the Chamber Harp had progressed to somewhat more than a young beginner’s harp in many cases, we developed the “Debutante” harp in the fall of 2005.  The word “Debutante” means “beginner,” in the sense of a young lady making her formal entrance into society.  The Debutante is more economical, uses concert harp strings, concert harp string spacing, uses the same levers, has the same basic design, veneered spruce soundboard, but simplified and without the extended soundboard.  The Debutante still has a remarkable sound emulating closely that of a good concert harp.

The Debutante neck is made of solid, un-veneered maple laminate.  The column, base, knee block, and capital plates are also of solid maple, though for our “two-tone” Debutante, the capital plates, column, knee block, side strips, and part of the base are made of either walnut or cherry.

The “ram’s head” design has worked well for us, but recently we felt the need to offer different design choices.  Consequently, the Empress and Princessa are even more recent design developments.  Essentially, the Empress and Princessa are identical in most respects to respectively, the Chamber Harp and Debutante, but with a different style.  The original Chamber Harp body was given ample enough soundboard in the base to permit adding two additional wire strings (6A & 6B), to be used without other modification for the Empress.  The Empress design at the top of the column gives a bit more room at the bottom of the neck for these two new wire strings.

 

 

 

 

Another recent development is the 22-string “Sprite” lap harp.  This instrument features the same construction quality and features of our other harps, and despite its size, is a serious harp filling a need that other “lap harps” do not.

We are still pursuing new development, and as new products are ready for market, they will be included here.  We also manufacture quality padded harp covers for many popular harps, and are seeking continually to expand our repertoire of covers.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our instruments or products.  We thank you for visiting our web site, and hope to hear from you.

 

Sincerely,

 

John W. Pratt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Pratt Harp Company

360 West 400 South

Manti, Utah 84642

USA

 

(435) 835-3541     info@prattharps.com

Copyright © 2013 John Pratt Harp Company.  All Rights Reserved.
Prices listed here may be changed without notice.