Veteran Gospel duo and Stellar Awards co-host Mary Mary and newcomer Charles Jenkins emerged as the top winners Saturday at the 28th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards, winning five awards each. Jenkins, whose debut CD “The Best of Both Worlds” garnered nominations in eight categories, received the coveted Song of the Year, CD of the Year and Choir of the Year among his five awards. Winning the top group honors, Mary Mary snagged Group/Duo of the Year, Contemporary Group/Duo of the Year and Contemporary CD of the Year along with two additional trophies. Also emerging as a big winner, Marvin Sapp took Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Traditional Male of the Year.
Presenting nine awards during the first-ever live telecast, which aired GMC TV from Nashville’s famed Grand Ole Opry House, the Stellar Awards were hosted by Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, whose high-energy performance of their nominated hit song “Go Get It” brought the sold-out audience to its feet. At the pre-show ceremonies on held Friday twenty (20) additional winners received awards.
Traditional Group/Duo of the Year and Quartet of the Year went to The Williams Brothers, who in a gracious show of appreciation gave their award to Tim Rodgers and The Fellas, and acknowledged them as the new generation quartet. Newcomer Le’Andria Johnson was awarded Contemporary Female of the Year and New Artist of the Year for her debut album “The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson.”
Tye Tribbett opened the show and set the tone for a memorable evening with a rousing, energetic delivery of his song “If He Did It Before, He Can Do It Again.” Full of dynamic, spirit-filled performances and collaborations, other key Stellar Awards show highlights included a special tribute to the late Inez Andrews, this year’s recipient of the Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award. The moving segment was presented by Dr. Jones and followed by a medley that featured “Indescribable” by Kierra Sheard, “Jesus Will” by Anita Wilson, “I Promise” by Y’Anna Crawley, and “So In Love” by Amber Bullock. Original Caravans Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood and Delores Washington then delivered a powerful, uplifting arrangement of “Mary Don’t You Weep” as the Andrews family looked on from the front row. A longtime Stellar Awards supporter, Andrews passed away last month.
“The live telecast of the 28th annual Stellar Awards was precedent setting in many ways and far exceeded all of our expectations,” said Executive Producer and Central City Productions Chairman Don Jackson. “The anticipation of ‘going live’ for the first time in the 28 year history of the Stellar Awards created an air of excitement with our entire production crew, co-hosts Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, as well as all of our nominees, performers and presenters. As a result, it was a historical evening in many ways – from the sold-out seating, to our live backstage online stream and full-to-capacity red carpet and media center, it was a night of ‘firsts.’ I applaud my entire team for the countless hours spent on pre-production which enabled us to have a smooth and on time event.”
Other big moments in the show included Tamela Mann’s soul-stirring rendition of “Take Me to the King”; a holy-spirit infused traditional medley featuring “I Got This” by Dottie Peoples, “Awesome God” by Maurette Brown Clark, “Draw Me Close” by Marvin Winans and a rousing duet of “Who Would’ve Thought” by Donnie McClurkin and Marvin Winans that became a foot-stomping, hand-clapping revival. In addition, Marvin Sapp, Charles Jenkins, Israel Houghton & New Breed all delivered powerhouse performances to the delight of the full-to-capacity crowd.
The show recognized the great accomplishments of some of Gospel’s brightest stars and extraordinary individuals who have made an impact on society. Global inspirational leader, author, producer, philanthropist and entrepreneur Bishop T.D. Jakes received the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award for his 35 years of ministry and humanitarian work. In a moving acceptance speech, Bishop Jakes expressed his heartfelt appreciation for the honor, acknowledging God, his wife, family and supporters for making this day possible.
“It has been amazing. When I think back 36 years ago, I would never have imagined I’d be standing here today and I want to say thank you,” said Jakes. “In the words of my mother, whenever you see a turtle sitting on a fencepost, always remember he didn’t get there by himself.”
Kurt Carr, protégé to the renowned Reverend Cleveland, received the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments, presented by Bishop Paul S. Morton and serenaded by Byron Cage and the Kurt Carr Singers.
“To God be the glory, what an incredible honor this is,” said Carr. “It’s a privilege to write Gospel music and stand on this stage in front of my peers receiving this award,” he added. “I thank all of you and Reverend James Cleveland who gave me my start.”