uGospel.com was on-site for the biggest night in Gospel music, the 29th Annual Stellar Gospel Awards, at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Ten awards were handed out during the 2-hour live telecast in primetime on UP Television Network. As a part of the pre-show activities, 28 additional awards were announced during ceremonies held on Friday and Saturday.
All Stellar winners are selected by online voters. Spirited and engaging, Sherri Shepherd and Rickey Smiley added just the right comedic flair to their job as hosts and Smiley treated the audience to a taste of his beloved church lady sketch, “Bernice Jenkins.” This year’s celebration began with Tye Tribbett hosting a live stream of the star-studded red carpet arrivals that featured Gospel greats, television, film and political luminaries.
Gospel newcomer Tasha Cobbs won “Contemporary CD of the Year,” “Contemporary Female of the Year” and “New Artist of the Year.”Hezekiah Walker walked away with three awards and tied Cobbs as the second most honored artist of the evening. Fred Hammond, John P. Kee and Anthony Brown were the only other artists to earn multiple Stellar Awards, each receiving two. Recognized for both individual and group success, Brown won “Contemporary Male of the Year” and “Group/Duo of the Year” with Kee winning “Traditional Male of the Year” and “Traditional Group/Duo of the Year.” Kee performed with New Life and Brown with Group Therapy, which shared the Group/Duo awards with their front men. Tye Tribbett, the most nominated artist, took home the trophy for “Male Vocalist of the Year.”
Power and praise were on full display from the evening’s opening performance as Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Choir delivered a spirited version of “Every Praise” with praise dancers. Erica Campbell, Jekalyn Carr, Latice Crawford and Lexi united for the Female Collaboration and performed a medley that included “A Little More Jesus,” “Greater Is Coming,” “There” and “Abide.” One commanding performance was followed by another as Anthony Brown & Group Therapy continued to raise the level with “Testimony”; “The Gift” by Donald Lawrence & Company inspired the near capacity audience to get out of their seats.
A highlight of the night was Jennifer Holliday bringing the house down with “Make Them Hear You.” Joining forces for the quartet collaboration were The Canton Spirituals, The Gospel Legends and The Wardlaw Brothers and Ricky Dillard closed the show on a high note singing “Amazing.” Shirley Caesar, Tasha Cobbs, Isaac Carree, and Kirk Franklin all delivered passionate performances for the Gospel music lovers in attendance.
Annually, The Stellar Awards recognizes the accomplishments of Gospel music icons and individuals instrumental in advocating for Gospel music. Hezekiah Walker received the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments and was acknowledged in a video message by Joel Osteen. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee received the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award for her career accomplishments on Capitol Hill and for authoring the bill designating September as National Gospel Music Month. Pastor Maceo L. Woods was honored with Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award, presented by its namesake, Dr. Jones.
Check out the gallery below for some backstage pictures from the 29th Annual Stellar Awards!