By Effie Rolfe, Spiritually Speaking
And the winner is…the 31st Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards better known as the ‘Grammy of Gospel’ was a night of gospel elegance that honored the best and brightest in the music industry. Many of the winners and nominees for this year’s coveted trophies reflected the new face of gospel music. The top pick of the evening was Anthony Brown & Group Therapy with ten trophies (surpassing Marvin Sapp) with the most Stellar Award wins in one night. Brown was chosen for categories including Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, CD of the Year, Producer of the Year, Group or Duo of the Year and several other categories.
Brown’s top charting song “Worth” has dominated the #1 spot on the billboard charts for over 23 weeks. During his acceptance speech for Male Vocalist of the Year, the founder of Group Therapy said, “As a baritone, as a lower voice, as a raspy voice person, I never felt good enough to sing, period. I always felt like my voice was a curse. And then one day God told me I gave you what I wanted to give you. And I want you to use it for my glory.” Brown continued, “There’s a system to God’s order. He finds you in the pasture, He finds you in the pasture where you serve. He doesn’t just find you on stage. He finds you while you are serving. We have to serve our way into the kingdom.”
The audience was entertained with inspiration and comedy throughout the performances. Sherri Shepherd and Rickey Smiley returned as this year’s hosts. Shepherd reflected on why she loves being apart of the Stellar Awards, “I love Jonathan McReynolds. Tasha Cob -bs takes me from one to thirty. Rev. Charles Jenkins and just when you think you have Kirk figured out, he has something else up his sleeve,” said Shepherd. I used to listen to Brian Courtney Wilson all the time and I used to listen to his song all the time. I got to meet him and I immediately burst into tears. His song (“Worth Fighting For”) has gotten me through so much. Jeffrey (her son) and I sing this song together, so to be able to give him my testimony. I told him sometimes you sit and you think—is this making a difference. I wanted you to know that for me and in my life it has—and I couldn’t stop crying,” explained the Host and Executive Producer of Match Made in Heaven. Who admitted she had to quickly stop crying after her eyes were red and her eyelashes began to lift.
Additional winners for the eve-ning were Rev. Charles Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago, who received four awards for the categories Choir of the Year, Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year, Traditional Choir of the Year and Video of the Year. The historic Chicago choir also gave a soul stirring performance of the chart topping single “War.”
Tasha Cobbs received three trophies including Praise and Worship CD, Contemporary Female Vocalist, as well as the Albertina Walker Female Vocalist, Casey J received New Artist of the Year, Tina Campbell walked away with Traditional Female Vocalist and Traditional CD of the Year. Other wins resulted in the legendary Rance Allen Group winning Traditional Group or Duo of the Year and JJ Hairston picked up his first ever Stellar Award for Contemporary Choir of the Year. Kirk Franklin received the Urban Inspirational Single or Performance for “Wanna Be Happy.”
Amazing performances from Brian Courtney Wilson, Hezekiah Walker, Casey J, Travis Greene and Pastor William McDowell were rendered throughout the evening. The audience raised the praise during an all-star collaboration featuring the Dream Team of Gospel Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, Karen Clark Sheard and Bishop Marvin.
Later, Stellar Gospel Music Awards Founder Don Jackson and nominee Erica Campbell bestowed the Stellar Honors, a special award and medallion commemorating excellence in their respective fields upon versatile film and television comic actor Jonathan Slocumb, and legendary Gospel figures multi-platinum recording artist and nationally syndicated radio host Yolanda Adams, highest-charting Gospel recording artist of all time Bishop Marvin Sapp, and featured vocalist on the landmark recording, “Oh, Happy Day” and the very first Stellar Awards host in 1985 Lady Tramaine Hawkins.
The Allstate James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Byron Cage and the reigning queen of Gospel, Pastor Shirley Caesar posthumously to Grammy Award-winner O’Landa Draper with riveting tribute performances by his true disciples Donald Lawrence, Hezekiah Walker and Ricky Dillard. The Brat Pack “turned up the testimony” with a medley of his well-known songs: “He Touched Me,” “Gotta Feelin’,” “My Soul Doth Magnify,” and “I Gotta Reason.”
Accepting the award on his behalf was his sister Teresa A. Draper, who was deeply touched that his songs continue to resonate with fans. Joe Ligon, founder and lead vocalist of the Mighty Clouds of Joy, also received the Chevrolet Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award, which was presented by Dr. Bobby Jones. The Stellar Gospel Music Awards airs nationally through April. For more information on syndicated airings of the show, visit www.thestellarawards.com
© Effie Rolfe is an Author of “Supersize Your Thinking,” Media Personality and Motivational Speaker. You can contact her on twitter.com/effiedrolfe Listen to her show daily on urbanpraiseradio.org (2015 Stellar Award Winner for Best Internet Radio Station)