Hosted by renowned gospel producer/artist Donald Lawrence, and the lovely gospel songstress CeCe Winans, the show opened with a wonderful musical tribute to the Bishop Walter Hawkins. The medley of Hawkins classics such as "When the Battle is Over" and "Marvelous", culminated in a spirited trio presentation of "Thank You", featuring hosts Lawrence, Winans, and guest celebrity judge gospel artist Marvin Sapp.
Cannonade fireworks celebrations from the neighboring baseball game echoed outside the arena during quiet moments, but once the choirs began to take center stage it was very clear that the fire was inside.
Next, representing the Rochester NY area, St. Elim Sanctuary Choir, Elim Christian Fellowship offered up the "Prayer of Jabez", with power and authority the request to "enlarge our territory" went forth.
The arena was next encouraged to praise by Mt. Moriah Choir hailing from Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, singing "Everybody Clap Your Hands". Judges could not help but notice and commend the infectious energy unity and enthusiasm of this choir that was so rich with diversity in age.
The final presentation for the small choir category came from 4 Real Empowerment Center singing "Set Me Free". Incorporating snippets of opera, animation, jazz, drama, and hip hop CRUNK, the 4 Real Empowerment Center pastors' choir, by night's end, would go home with the small choir award and the cash prize of ten thousand dollars.
Seasoned with solo performances by Pastor Sapp, (selected via audience text request) with "He Saw the Best in Me" and the powerhouse "Never Would have Made It", we transitioned from the first half into the second to be greeted by CeCe Winans.
Winans performed portions of familiar favorites from her recording Throne Room, then subtly instigated worship while introducing a track from her upcoming release, setting and atmosphere for a great second half.
The large choir representatives came in full force and ready to praise.
The Choir of Cypress, Cypress Wesleyan Church singing "Again I Say Rejoice" came in mass and was accompanied by a sound machine that was almost comparable in magnitude. Orchestral and modern band accompaniment aligned with an obvious zeal for praise set the bar high for the second large choir representative, and caused Pastor Sapp to declare in sober jest , "This is NOT your grandfather's Wesleyan Church" as he released the people to give praise.
Hailing from United Pentecostal Church International, the Calvary Sanctuary Choir took the stage as the final choir of the evening, singing "For Every Mountain". One was hard pressed to find a single person in the building that was still sitting by the middle of the second chorus...
Host Donald Lawrence tried to give a moment for the room to settle to hear the remarks from the judges. Finally he began to exhort, and just released the people and band to do as the song and choir suggested, give Him praise.
Calvary Sanctuary Choir would later go on to win the ten thousand dollar, large choir award, and an additional five thousand as the crowd favorite. Karen Clark Sheard is a vocal and innovative wonder; she displayed this as only she does singing her single "Prayed Up", which was followed by gospel's rising star James Fortune & FIYA, featuring Shawn McLemore singing "I Believe".
Host Donald Lawrence sent us home singing "Back to Eden" and the evening culminated with concert goers encouraging each other to live on top of the world.
Cleveland was blessed to experience such a complete night of worship and is anxiously awaiting Verizon's 2011 event!!
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