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Appalachian Heritage Celebrated at SU

By Staff | Sep 20, 2013

Shepherd University will again host its Appalachian Heritage Festival in conjunction with the Appalachian Heritage Writer in Residence Program.

According to Rachel Meads, Appalachian culture professor and coordinator of the Performing Arts Series at Shepherd (PASS), this year’s festival will feature both local and world-renowned musicians.

“I’m super excited because we’ve got a lot of Shepherdstown locals that were featuring,” she said.

Shepherdstown’s Chelsea McBee and the Random Assortment will perform Friday evening, as well as local bluegrass band the Hillbilly Gypsies.

Saturday’s concert will feature legendary West Virginia fiddler Lester McCumbers, as well as Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line.

As in year’s past, both concerts will be hosted by award-winning songwriter and musician John Lilly.

Friday’s program also includes a reading by Paul Kessler, a Shepherdstown resident and alumni of Shepherd University, whose story “The Mountains of a Quiet Earth” took first prize in the West Virginia Fiction Competition sponsored by the West Virginia Center for the Book and the Appalachian Heritage Writers Project.

Meads said the inclusion of performing acts that span multiple generations, is part of what will make this years festival special.

The “kid from Shepherdstown,” Chelsea Mcbee, will perform in her old- time inspired style.

Ninety-two-year-old fiddler ,Lester McCumbers, who is considered one of the “grand masters” of traditional West Virginia music will provide a glimpse into Appalachian musics long history.

“It’s a very special thing that weve got him,” Meads said.

Meads also said shes excited about both the festival’s musical offerings and also the Appalachian Writer in Residence events, to be held throughout the week prior to Friday night’s concert.

This years Writer in Residence is Frank X Walker, who coined the term “Affrilachia.”

Meads said that both the Writer in Residence program and the musical festival demonstrate the University’s commitment to showing diversity in Appalachia.

“People paint us with a this broad brush,” she said of Appalachia.

“Over the 18 years of the festival weve tried to showcase cultural diversity in Appalachia,” she said.

“I think were going to have one of the most successful festivals we’ve had,” she said.

As part of the Heritage Festival musical offerings, a free demonstration workshop and discussion with Lester McCumbers will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m. At 2:30, Nora Jane Struthers, Chelsea McBee, and John Lilly will lead a songwriting workshop. And at 4 p.m. guests are invited to participate in an “open jam session” with musicians at Reynolds Hall.

Friday and Saturday’s concerts begin at 8 p.m. at the Frank Arts Center Theater.

Tickets to the showcase concerts are available for purchase at the Shepherd University Bookstore, by calling 304-876-5219, or online at www.shepherdbook.com.

Festival Passes (admission to both concerts) are available: $20 general admission; $15 seniors/Shepherd staff; $5 for kids under 18. Single concert tickets are $15 general admission; $10 seniors/Shepherd staff; $5 for kids under 18. Concerts are free to Shepherd Students with valid Rambler ID.