The 16th Annual Stellar Awards kicked things off on January 11th, at the Peachtree Ballroom at the Westin Hotel in downtown Atlanta. The Thursday night affair was in honor of Gospel announcers, and was hosted eloquently by Larry Tinsley of V-103 Atlanta.
With lights dimmed and dinner being served, the spotlight swung between the honoring of the on-air voices, and the honoring of Jesus Christ by voices (and instruments). Chicago-based Advance Records brought several of their artists.
Bassist Pennal Johnson took to the stage with two selections, including a vocals-supplemented quiet storm, "I Didn't Mean To Fall in Love". Following him was vocalist Andrea Love, who came with several background singers. Both artists are featured on the upcoming Spiritual Rhythms Volume 2 compilation project.
After words from the man who produces the Stellars (Chairman and CEO of Central City Productions, Don Jackson), and also from the chair of the GMWA Announcers' Guild, Al Hobbs, the mixing and mingling continued.
That all came to a halt when unsigned artist Christopher Lewis took to the stage. Sitting at his keyboard with his mic in front of him, and with a few backing vocalists off to the side, Lewis launched into his set of highly creative acoustic-styled compositions. With sparse keyboard accompaniment, the anointing merged into true artistry was evident to all. The songs "Beauty Queen" and "Delivered" stunned the house.
Saxophonist Salathiel followed, moving from stage to special son request, which lead her into the dining table crowded ballroom floor. Finishing the evening was the return of Salt of the Earth. Based in Detroit and under the direction of industry vet Gloster Williams, the vocal ensemble formerly signed to now defunct CGI Records showed that they remain a vocal force. The melody of "I Wanta To Be Like God" from the Spiritual Rhythms Vol. 2 project still resonates.
The following day was the ASCAP Luncheon, in honor of the first year anniversary of Sister 2 Sister's "Stomps and Shouts" Gospel column. On hand to capture the event were several artists including Howard Hewitt.
With Gospel funny man Jonathan Slocumb as MC, Dr. Ed Montgomery opened the luncheon with an invocation. As head of ABLife Records, the noted pastor alerted the crowd to the new release from his Texas-based Abundant Life Cathedral Church congregation. Featuring names such as the soulful Mark Taylor and V. Michael McKay, the Billboard charting project from ALC is titled I Still Believe (see album review).
Once the chicken was served, Church Howse Music artists Ted & Sherri took to the stage. Anticipation for their Spring 2001 release was high after the hungry crowd heard selections from the duo such as "Come Ye Disconsolate", "Thank You" (featuring production from Myron Butler and the Tonéx-touched "When You Pray".
Priority Records' first sanctified artist and former Kurt Carr Singers member Nysa Shenay also created waves with her rendition of "Mic Check", "Mystery" and several other songs from her My Everything project (see album review).
Rounding out the ASCAP luncheon were words from Sister 2 Sister's Gospel columnist Calvin Terrell and also from Central City chairman Don Jackson.
The crowd dispersed for an afternoon of industry seminars, and to rest for the nominee reception due for later that Friday evening.