Youthful Praise

18th Annual Stellar Awards Ceremony (2003)

Highlights were many and the memories will be lingering. Here are only some of the choice moments during the taping of the 18th Annual Stellar Awards in Atlanta on January 11, 2003 at The Boisteuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center.

The evenings hosts, Donnie McClurkin, Mary Mary and Michelle Williams, were introduced by the off-camera voice of comedian Jonathan Slocumb, as they slowly came into view on the rising front stage, backdropped by classical pillars and thick curtains.

Immediate introductions were made for the evenings first musical guest, the energetic Dorinda Clark-Cole. Her brilliant red dress behind her, Clark-Cole burst out with the contemporary "I"m Coming Out", complete with choir and a hyper crew of in-front dancers —who at one point marched right into the crammed Civic Center crowd.

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As an immediate contrast, New Artist of the Year Smokie Norful took to the stage, alone with grand piano, singing his hit, "I Need You Now". Norful left no doubt as to the legitimacy of his triple Stellar honors that weekend, bringing the crowd to their feet with his intense praise and worship ministry. Just as in the dress rehearsal hours prior, the diminutive Norful slowly left the stage with his hands raised high in praise.

The evenings first award, Female Vocalist of the Year, was announced jointly by Dr. Bobby Jones, Richard Smallwood, Shirley Murdock and Karen Clark-Sheard —who burst into evident expressions of delight when it was clear that the winner this year was her own sister, Dorinda Clark-Cole.

Other highlights of that Saturday night included:

  • Co-host Michelle Williams singing the guitar-driven "Jesus Is A Rock"

  • Tux-dressed TP Mobb gathering around Brent Jones on grand piano for "Midnite", with Jones himself taking solo duties on the piece.

  • Maurette Brown-Clark presenting The Canton Spirituals with the Quartet of the Year Award, along with harmony kings 7th Element, who actually sang their lines in 6-part harmony.

  • Star producer Warryn Campbell joining co-hosts Mary Mary on stage for the rap elements of their song "In The Morning".

  • Bow Wow stood alone onstage to present the New Artist of the Year award to Kirk Franklin. [Obviously delighted to be at the Stellars, the popular hip hop artist has previously publicly stated his love for Gospel music — on Teen Summit on BET in 2001 he said that Gospelflava.com was among his favorite websites.] Franklin and Bow Wow compared heights by using their hands.

  • Co-directors Shawn Brown and JJ Hairston of Youthful Praise together with Out of Eden announcing that Ted & Sheri were the recipients of Group / Duo of the Year, with the two ChurchHowse Music artists giving credit first to God and then to their hardworking label CEO, Neily Dickerson, and also giving credit to the late O'landa Draper.

  • Music World Gospel artists and J.Moss' girl group proteges Ramiyah delivering an 'all over the stage' effort on their urban contemporary musical offering.

  • The Canton Spirituals' refined performance of "Satisfied With Jesus".

  • Vickie Winans together with long-time former Stellar host Rev. Clifton Davis and Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson presenting Smokie Norful with the New Artist of the Year Award.

  • Israel and New Breed alone on stage with only Israel's guitar, pouring their all into "You Are Good", easily encouraging the crowd to sing along with them.

18th Annual Stellar Awards Results
Click for review The Stellar Awards were handed out in Atlanta over the weekend of January 10-11th 2003. Multiple Stellar winners included Richard Smallwood, Kirk Franklin, Ted & Sheri, Dorinda Clark-Cole, The Canton Spirituals, Yolanda Adams, Smokie Norful and Donald Lawrence.

See Full List of Winners.
The esteemed James Cleveland Award honor, given to an artist to recognize outstanding contributions to Gospel music, was presented to Andrae Crouch by both Ron Winans and Marvin Winans as well as actor Sean Patrick Thomas. Special musical tributes to Crouch by Ted & Sheri (with "I'll Be Praying For You" ) and by Donald Lawrence and his orange/white robed Tri-City Singers (singing "Bless Me" —a song co-written by Crouch and Lawrence), preceded Andrae Crouch's acceptance speech. Standing together with his twin sister Sandra, he delivered a stirring and moving acceptance speech in which he declared that even after all these years, that "Jesus is STILL sweeter than the day before".

New to the Stellars for 2003 was the Hall of Fame Award, which this year was presented to Yolanda Adams. Comedian Chris Tucker drew tremendous applause as he took to the stage with some riotous comments, and introduced singer Kelly Price, who tore into a well-received medley of Yolanda Adams hits. Kirk Franklin then came to the stage to introduce Adams to the crowd. Resplendent in a flowing brown ballroom dress, the statuesque singer graciously received the honor, and gave heartfelt words, encouraging everyone to lift up in prayer those Gospel artists who are often placed into difficult mainstream situations, that God would strengthen them and that they may use the opportunity for ministry to those around them, even those backstage.

Continuing with musical presentations, Angela Spivey with Prince Yelder and The Disciples for Christ stunned the crowd with their traditionally-styled "Dorothy Love-Coates Medley", as Spivey took her flair to the next level, using only a chair prop and her unreal set of pipes.

Stellar Editorial
Click for review Gospelflava.com's Melanie Clark writes:

"The Awards have their place and do an excellent job of bringing the genre of gospel to a place of greater exposure. Let's continue to support their ministry and view them as a source of encouragement and edification for the work that is being done.

Where we go wrong is we confuse our stamp of approval with God's....."

See Full Editorial.
Cohost Donnie McClurkin took to the stage with new muic — a cover of the Walter Hawkins song, "Special Gift", featuring guest vocalist Lynette Hawkins- Stephens on duet.

The last artist to appear on stage was the Shekinah Glory Ministry. With lead singer William Murphy front and centre taking their hit "Praise Is What I Do", and choir behind with director Rose Harper out front on keyboards, the song brought the house down, powered by sincere ministry.

Increasing in intensity towards song end, this year's Stellar awards taping culminating in an impromptu and obviously spontaneous 30-minute church service, with everyone on their feet, then bowing down on their knees in worship, as Donnie McClurkin and then Kirk Franklin took the mic to lead not only the assembly of artists called to the stage, but also the entire Civic Centre crowd, into praise and worship, calling upon each and all to abandon fleshly pursuits of worldly praise, jealousy and other such activities, and instead simply get on our faces before God, acknowledging and giving honor to Jesus Christ.

For He alone is the reason for Gospel music.

Stay tuned for the 2003 Stellar TV listings to see when the 2-hour ceremony airs in your area.

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