When Cathryn Lyons started taking piano lessons at age 5, she both amazed and frustrated her instructors because instead of memorizing sheet music, the aspiring musician would play by ear.
It was after much cajoling that Lyons, who performs at renaissance festivals as Lady Prudence Piper, learned how to read music.
It was that experience that would start Lyons on a musical odyssey. The musician would go on to learn how to play the violin, the cello and, ultimately, the string bass in high school. She would be the only string member of the Aiken High School Wind Ensemble.
But it was through the encouragement of Schofield Middle School band director Joseph Laorenza that Lyons would make the transition to playing string bass.
“He learned that I had played the violin,” said Lyons. “He said, ‘I heard you fiddle around with the fiddle. How would you like to fiddle around with the bass?’ I went from the smallest string instrument to the largest string instrument.”
However, it was a Christmas gift from Lyons’ step-mother three years ago that had the musician direct her energies toward a new instrument. Lyons was presented with a lap harp.
“I always wanted to play the harp, but I was never able to make the investment to get one, and she randomly gave it to me,” said Lyons. “It’s been one of my favorite instruments.”
Lady Prudence Piper is Lyons’ alter ego. The musician graduated with a degree in psychology from Emory University. Lyons acted in college, and while attending Emory was involved with the student theater and four different choirs. Great harp players are referred to as harpists, and lap harp players as harpers, Lyons said.
“Lady Prudence is a bit more dignified than myself,” said Lyons. “It’s easier for me to perform as a costume character than it is to be out playing as myself. Once I sit down and play, my musical instincts take over.”
The Aiken resident plays regularly at two renaissance festivals – the Georgia Festival, an event she has been a presence at for the past seven years, and the Carolina Renaissance Festival in Charlotte. The Renaissance festivals have allowed Lyons to become more comfortable when performing before large groups.
Lyons has also released a CD as Lady Prudence titled “Journeys.”
For more information about Lady Prudence Piper, court composer, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To book Lyons for a performance engagement call, a Harp to Remember at 673-6188.