All Photos by:Carmen Bonner and Candace Walker
On January 29th at 4 pm on Fox The 26th Annual Stellar Awards which were recently held in Nashville, Tennessee at the Grand Ole Opry will broadcast here in Atlanta. Tune in to see one of Atlanta’s own Bryon Cage as he walks off with a top honor. Cage was the winner of the Male Vocalist of the Year award for 2011, beating out several top male gospel artists including Marvin Sapp and J Moss. Cage stated backstage that the win was his 8th and he was “honored and very blessed” to receive the award. Even though Cage walked away with this much lauded award it was Marvin Sapp who was the big winner of the night and who moved the entire audience. Sapp took home four awards, including Artist of the Year, Traditional Male of the Year, CD of the Year and Traditional CD of the Year.
For Sapp after dealing with the death of his beloved wife Malinda the wins were greatly appreciated but as he so eloquently put it “It’s great to be honored by your peers, and you do your best to give honor and glory to God,” said Sapp. “But it’s bittersweet with my wife not here with me.”
It was Sapp’s dedication of the night to his wife and his emotional performance of a “Never Would Have Made It” with Donnie McClurkin that was the highlight of the show.
Unlike other years where there were multiple hosts, this year Donnie McClurkin was the only host for the show and he did an excellent job. McClurkin recalled before his introduction of Sapp that it was MaLinda Sapp that encouraged Marvin to record Never Would Have Made It.
Karen Clark Sheard received the first-ever Albertina Walker Female Vocalist of the Year award, presented to her by legends Shirley Caesar and Vickie Winans.
Newcomer Kristina Halloway, whose song Free has been climbing the charts, won the hotly-contested Best New Artist category.
The man who is short in stature but big at heart, Kirk Franklin was moved to tears when he was saluted by his peers and received the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award for his Haitian relief efforts. Appearing backstage with Haitian born actor Jimmy Jean Louis they both urged everyone to stay involved in the Haitian crisis. “We need you to keep talking about what is going in Haiti,” said Louis. “It’s important that we don’t let people forget because if that happens then it will be easy for them not to become involved” he added. Franklin also spoke of the industry’s response to the tragedy in Haiti, saying “Gospel music –- we were the first genre to come together and respond musically.” It was his song “Are You Listening: A Love Song for Haiti” that was recorded by several of his friends and colleagues at last year’s Stellar Awards, that focused on the earthquake victims in Haiti and continues to raise funds to this day.
The show boasted a who’s who list of attendees and presenters including; Andrae Crouch, Omari Hardwick (For Colored Girls), Meagan Good (The Game), Yvette Nicole Brown (NBC’s Community), BET’s Dr. Bobby Jones , Beth Payne, Shari Addison and Jessica Reedy from Sunday Best, Committed (winners of NBC’s “The Sing Off”), and Trin-I-Tee 5:7.
There were performances from JJ Hairston and Youthful Praise who opened the show with their power-packed “Lord You’re Mighty”, Beverly Crawford, Forever Jones and Joshua Troop.
Donald Lawrence received the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award and Vanessa Bell Armstrong received the Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award. Both were recognized for their significant contributions to Gospel music.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston, TX) presented Central City Productions CEO and founder of the Stellar Awards Don Jackson with a proclamation celebrating the establishment of September as national Gospel Music Heritage month.
For a complete listing of winners and to check broadcast times in your area log on to www.thestellarawards.com