New Anthology of Appalachian Writers celebrated with song, storytelling and art
SHEPHERDSTOWN – “A Celebration of Appalachian Song, Storytelling and Photographic Art” took place on Friday, as community members gathered in the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education to commemorate the publication of The Anthology of Appalachian Writers: Karen Spears Zacharias Volume XI.
The program was sponsored by Shepherd University Appalachian Studies, West Virginia’s Center for the Book and the Shepherd University Foundation.
“We’re so proud to have hosted this series of events with the Appalachian Heritage Festival for the last two decades, so that’s something to be proud of,” said Shepherd University Provost Scott Beard, as he opened the event. “We are indeed grateful to our sponsors listed in this year’s program. We’re also grateful for the untiring work of Dr. Sylvia Shurbutt.
“All too often, Appalachia is steeped in mythic lore as uncultured and poor. Honestly, nothing can be further from the truth,” Beard said. “Events like tonight’s offering enable us to overcome and celebrate the cultural achievements of this region. Congratulations on tonight’s program – continue to rebel, continue to excel, continue to innovate, continue to create.”
Shurbutt, who is the founder of SU’s Appalachian Studies program and one of the anthology’s editors, followed Beard to the platform, to express her own appreciation for her fellow editors, David O. Hoffman, Natalie Sypolt and Caitlyn Sheets, and the new anthology’s titular author, Zacharias, who was the 2018 Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence.
“I have so many people to thank for this anthology – most importantly, is sitting right here, Karen Spears Zacharias. We also want to acknowledge the editors of this volume,” Shurbutt said. “This is an amazing book, and you’re going to get a taste of that tonight.”
One way the audience got a taste of the anthology’s contents was through the music of Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church choir director and composer Georgiann Toole. Toole arranged the folk songs, “Wayfaring Stranger,” “Kitty Alone” and “Blow the Candle,” which were performed by Shepherd University students Korinne Myers, Shenandoah Sokel, Hannah Flach, Julia Stonesifer, Simone Reynolds and Jennifer Forbes.
“It’s wonderful to be part of this event. It’s an honor to be sharing this music with you,” Toole said, mentioning that while the first two songs used familiar lyrics, the lyrics to “Blow the Candle” were from a less-common version of the song. “As with most folk songs, there are multiple versions of the text. This is portrayed as more of a warning song to young women. I decided to dig deeper to find words to a song the are a little more accurate for modern audiences.”
The evening ended with Zacharias reading her story in the anthology, “Wayfaring Stranger,” followed by West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman reading a series of poems from the anthology and his own work.
A reception in Scarborough Library followed the event, during which attendees snacked on refreshments and viewed the 2019 Anthology Photographic Exhibit and the exhibit’s 2019 Anthology Photographic Art Award winner, “Surfacing,” by Randi Ward.