RECAP: Taping of the 20th Annual Stellar Awards (2005)
The taping of the 20th Annual Stellar Awards again went down in history as unforgettable. For so many reasons.
From the get go, this edition of Gospel's finest performance artistry grabbed attention, as Israel and New Breed slammed into their rousing "Friend Of God", before even the trio of hosts for the evening was introduced. New Breed continued with a low key groove as Tonéx, Yolanda Adams and Donnie McClurkin marched up the centre aisle to front and center.
Award presenters made the march to the stage as one by one, the various Stellar trophies were handed out. Among presenters were Ben Tankard, Dule Hill, Mary Mary, Shemar Moore, Kimberly Elise, Lisa McLendon, J.Moss, Lil' Rufus, Kurt Carr, Clifton Davis, Angela Spivey and Lelah Hathaway.
In the first of three special presentations, Roberta Flack gave a nice introduction to her former 8th grade music student, Richard Smallwood. Then in a classic moment, the spotlight swung over to Edwin Hawkins, Lynette Hawkins Stephens, Tramaine Hawkins and Walter Hawkins, who were on stage, framed by a black-clothed choir, as they honored Smallwood with a medley of some of his favorites, including "I Love The Lord", "Total Praise" and "Praise Anthem (Lift Him Up)". The open-mouthed audience reaction was immediate as the unmistakeable Hawkins sound floated across the George R. Brown Convention Center. Smallwood then walked up to receive The James Cleveland Award.
Cece Winans presented a genuine musical tribute to her spiritual brother, Donnie McClurkin. With "Mercy Said No" and "Stand" (sung in duet with Marvin Sapp), Winans graciously and beautifully spoke life to McClurkin as he was honored with the Gospel Trailblazer Award. McClurkin accepting, reminded himself and others that it is all about Jesus.
Tonéx won six awards for an album that ironically released in a year that he lost six family members. He mentioned that he hadnít won the awards before because perhaps his character couldnít hold them evidence that God moves not only when Heís ready, but when weíre ready. In a Stellar first-time-ever, Tonéx invited the crowd down to the front to receive a special prophetic word, and they responded in throngs (much to the dismay of the production crew!).
Adams, who really did look like the black Barbie doll (as pointed out by comedian Jonathan Slocumb), wore a series of beautiful couture pieces. As the hostess with the mostest, she glammed and entertained, but interestingly, did not sing.
The Williams Brothers cleaned up with several awards. The single "Iím Still Here" has to be the sleeper of the year. Though recognized among their usual fans already, I think by nightís end everyoneís head was bobbiní and come Monday, the saints were pulling the CD back out.
Ricky Dillard and New G, clad in green and brown, tore down the house with "Take Me Back". Bishop Paul S. Morton sang in his inimitable style his hit song, "Let It Rain", working off of the prominent guitarist who stood beside him on stage. Morton then proceeded to gather in three Stellar trophies during the course of the evening.
Martha Munizzi's latin sizzle in performing "Glorious" was all that more memorable, considering that she was honored with the New Artist of the Year award that night. Ruben Studdard also stepped up nicely with his song, "I Need An Angel".
The awarding of Male Vocalist of the Year to Israel Houghton was proceeded with a reuniting of The Caravans, who delivered a shortened version of "Lord Keep Me Day By Day". To say that it was wonderful to see Albertina Walker, Shirley Caesar, Inez Andrews and Dorothy Norwood on stage and singing together would be an understatement.
Fred Hammond stood alone without RFC and sang like never before. With PJ Morton on keys and a small string orchestra, Hammond rendered perhaps the most heartfelt piece of the night: "I Will Find A Way". Though the original recording features an exquisitely arranged background vocal, there was none on this night. None there. None needed. With a video montage of wintery Detroit on screen behind him, Hammond transparently poured out and quietly left the stage to an applauding but largely speechless audience.
Tye Tribbett and Greater Anointing left their usual indelible mark with a beyond high octane performance. Mercifully, they didnít really have time to completely cut loose or order in the house might not have been re-established. Power undeniable, and a presence that literally turns everything upside down Tye and the GA tornado came through.
Dr. Bobby Jones was honored with the first-ever Legend Award, presented by Vickie Winans, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Tom Joyner and Donna Richardson Joyner. Confessing nervousness, Dr. Jones addressed the crowd, acknowledging their warm reception and giving honor to God.
Kirk Franklin closed out the show with 55 instrument-flailing members of Ocean of Soul, the Texas Southern University Marching Band, who entered from the wings and came down the aisle to join some of the original members of Godís Property, performing a renovated "Stomp", mixed into elements of "Melodies from Heaven", "Why I Sing" and "Lean On Me".
In a strange way we have to look back to look forward.
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