RECAP: Taping of the 22nd Annual Stellar Awards (2007)
January 13, 2007 could easily go down as the biggest night in Gospel Music in the last ten years as the community converged on the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee for the 22nd Annual Stellar Awards.
With Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, and Tye Tribbett serving as hosts for the genre’s largest award event, the stage was set for an incredible time. The theme for this year’s event was "A Night of Faith, Healing, and Harmony" and the night lived up to the slogan.
Sprinkled throughout the star-studded audience was a “Who’s Who” talent roster that was second to none. Sightings within the venerable Grand Ole Opry included the likes of Trin-I-tee 5:7, Take 6, Izzy, Darien Dennis, Dr. Bobby Jones, Stephen Hurd, Kurt Carr, Micah Stampley, George Huff, Juanita Bynum, Matthew Knowles, Jazzy Jordan, Vashawn Mitchell, Montrel Darrett, Natalie Cole, Darwin Hobbs, William Murphy III, Professor Wilbur Belton, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kikpatrick, and James Hall, just to name a few. GOSPELflava.com was in full force as well, of course.
Launching the telecast was a rousing performance from Stellar award nominee Byron Cage who set the house ablaze with a medley of “Lift Him Up” and “I Will Bless the Lord”, which would later be announced as the “Song of the Year”. Complete with dancers and an all-star choir that included Mark Hubbard and DeWayne Woods, Cage set the tone for an energetic night.
Throughout the evening, comedian Akintunde kept the crowd hyped during production pauses with a seemingly endless repertoire of comic lines that kept the crowd in stitches and served as perfect segues for varying segments of the recording.
Patti LaBelle gave a riveting rendition of “Walk Around Heaven”. Accompanied by piano and a small vocal ensemble, the likes of Shirley Caesar and Tammy Franklin, among many others, offering their rousing support from the audience.
Other impressive performances came from Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson and the Spiritual Voices with “I Made It” and Zie’l, who rocked the house with their energetic “He’s Able”.
Industry legend Richard Smallwood and his choir Vision hit the stage with a sneak peek from their upcoming 2007 release with “I’ll Trust You”. Ted Winn, Vanessa Williams, and Maurette Brown-Clark were within the ranks of Vision members, and the choir sounded better than ever.
Double Stellar nominated J.J. Hairston and Youthful Praise blessed the house with their chart-topping hit, “Incredible God, Incredible Praise”. Jason Nelson joined Hairston on lead vocals making a dynamic duo on that effort.
Myron Butler & Levi, who took home their share of Stellar trophies, came through big time with their hit “Set Me Free” with Butler and Candy West providing lead vocals.
Kierra “KiKi” Sheard brought some serious head noddin’ to the party with a new Darkchild-infused mix of “Why Me” that left the audience spinning.
This was followed by the first performance from the show’s co-hosts. The two-time Stellar award winning Tye Tribbett and GA continued to showcase their God-given innovation with a “Victory”-filled performance that combined “Who Else But God?”, “In the Name of Jesus”, and “Victory”. Donning Kingdom University outfits and sporting pom-poms, the crew, backed by SoundCheck, blazed the audience and brought them to a Sunday morning frenzy.
Vickie Winans followed with an emotional performance of “The Rainbow”. Kirk Franklin then teamed with tobyMac for an awesome rendition of “Let It Go”. Accompanied by the glowing bows of the Nashville Cremona Strings and an accompanying video, Franklin and company rocked the crowd while reaching the hearts of the men in the audience (who were encouraged to hold up their lights-on cellphones today's equivalent of the concert lighter wave).
As if the night could become more power-packed, The Caravans made an epic return with a rousing performance of “Mary Don’t You Weep”. The audience stood in awe as Mother Inez Andrews showed that her range is as sharp as ever as she impressed everyone with her ability to call Mary.
With The Clark Sisters (Karen, Jackie, Dorinda, Twinkie) sitting on the front row, everyone in the crowd knew that something was coming up. Mid-way through the evening, the four sisters were called on to the stage, introduced by Natalie Cole and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, to accept the Chevrolet Most Notable Achievement Award. Jackie took the mic, and lead the way with a thank you speech, as they were honored with the award.
Also honored during the evening were The Mighty Clouds of Joy, who were presented with the Chevrolet James Cleveland Lifetime Achievmenet Award. After introductions by Yolanda Adams, the legendary quartet made their way to the stage for a brief and humble thank you.
This led to what is undoubtedly the defining moment of the evening, which will shape Gospel music for the remainder of the year. The award for “Artist of the Year” was awarded to Donald Lawrence, who took away some seven Stellar trophies before the night was done. Being the final and biggest award of the night, Lawrence proceeded to accept the award, but then in an unprecedented move, Lawrence said, “I hope that Don Jackson won’t mind but I want to sow this award into the life of Tye Tribbett.” This incredible move dropped the jaws of everyone in attendance but led to an extreme ministry moment.
Kirk Franklin was slated to introduce the next musical presentation. However, he addressed Lawrence and began to be used as God’s mouthpiece in an incredible way. Franklin stated that the Gospel community should follow in Lawrence’s footsteps and empty ourselves of things that we’ve been holding on to for too long. He stated that as Lawrence emptied himself of that award, he made room for God to give him something new. Franklin then challenged the Gospel community to let go of the past and embrace the new move of God. He also admonished the crowd to recognize when their season is over and make way for the new thing that God is doing.
This ushered in an incredible move of God that led to a wave of praise that could not be denied nor contained. Mary Mary was scheduled to perform but they came out and continued the wave of praise and ministry that was taking place in this authentic spiritual moment. Erica Campbell admonished the community to become hungry again for God and move to the place of sincere love for God that’s untainted by record deals and awards. She reminded artists of the need to genuinely repent and to sing with pure hearts, which continued the strong vibe of praise. The television taping had morphed into a worship service that saw a literal changing of the guard take place before our eyes.
In one fell swoop, Donald Lawrence “anointed” Tye Tribbett as the Artist of the Year. With Franklin’s endorsement and the Holy Spirit’s authentication, the industry watched a literal changing of the guard.
Franklin then publicly challenged Don Jackson and GMA President John Styll to create a weekend without press, demos, and showcases for artists to lay before God to hear a clear word from Him.
Soon, order was somewhat restored, with Mary Mary returning to perform their hit “Yesterday”. As imagined, this rendition was heavily spirited with Tina Campbell dancing as though it was Sunday morning. The praise party continued as the group’s live band moved into a shout run that turned the Opry House into the House of Worship. The band couldn’t be denied as they frantically changed keys and led the house into another fit of praise. The literal plug had to be pulled in an attempt to pull things back into order.
The show ended with a rousing performance from Bishop Paul S. Morton, Kurt Carr and legendary trumpetist Lew Bartholomew that brought the celebratory New Orleans vibe into the house, complete with white hanky waving audience members and fireworks.
Indeed, the awards ceremony was a night of faith, healing, and harmony that saw an undeniable move of God whose impact will be long lasting to say the least.
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