(Print quality photographs of Lester McCumbers can be downloaded here)
The Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, was presented to musician and singer Lester McCumbers of Nicut this evening as part of the 29th annual Vandalia Gathering. The award was given to McCumbers during a ceremony and concert in the Normal L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater in the Cultural Center.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History presents the Vandalia Award annually to a West Virginian who has made outstanding contributions to the continuation of the state’s folk heritage. The award recognizes lifetime achievement in the performance, creation or perpetuation of West Virginia traditional arts. The Vandalia Gathering, an annual three-day festival of traditional arts and folk heritage, is celebrated Memorial Day weekend at the Cultural Center and State Capitol grounds in Charleston. More than 40,000 people attend the three-day festival each year.
McCumbers was born in 1921 in southern Calhoun County, and carries on a rich tradition of fiddling, singing and guitar playing that has thrived in his family for generations. He has performed widely for more than 60 years with old-time and bluegrass music groups, appearing at concerts, contests, festivals, square dances and on radio shows throughout West Virginia and elsewhere.
He has maintained his music as an important part of his life, developing a personal style of playing and singing marked by sincerity, drive and emotion.
“I just don’t feel right if I don’t play a tune or two every day,” he is quoted as saying in an article in the spring 2004 issue of Goldenseal magazine. “Music just gives me a lot of satisfaction in my heart. I’ve always tried to play the fiddle or sing a song to suit myself and the way I feel it.”
McCumbers continues to pass on his musical heritage to others, including family members, apprentices and countless workshop participants. He has been a regular performer at the Vandalia Gathering, the West Virginia State Folk Festival in Glenville and the Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop.
He and his wife and performing partner Linda have known each other since childhood. They were married in 1937 and raised nine children as they performed with a variety of bands. For four years in the mid-1960s, they hosted a weekly radio show on WSPZ in Spencer. The couple’s first CD recording, “Old Timey,” was released in 2002 and features 26 of their old-time fiddle tunes and songs.
McCumbers is the 25th recipient of the Vandalia Award. Last year, Carl Rutherford of War was honored. For more information about the Vandalia Award or the Vandalia Gathering, call (304) 558-0220.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about the Vandalia Gathering and other programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
Director of Public Information
West Virginia Division of Culture and History
The Cultural Center
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, WV 25305-0300
Phone (304) 558-0220
Fax (304) 558-2779