Rising Gospel music superstar Vashawn Mitchell topped the list of winners during the 27th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards announced Saturday night during the show’s taping at Nashville’s iconic Grand Ole Opry House Theater. Mitchell took home six awards, including Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Contemporary Male of the Year and Praise and Worship CD of the Year for his 2011 album, “Triumphant.”
“I am grateful to stand here,” a gracious Mitchell said, also acknowledging other artists in the category, his family, label and social media fans. “I’ve been coming to the Stellar Awards a long time and I’m glad I waited my turn.”
Hosted by the legendary Dorinda Clark Cole and Marvin Sapp, ten awards were presented over the course of the two-hour Stellar Awards show, with 28 additional awards announced during pre-show ceremonies on Friday and Saturday. Winners were selected by online voters.
From the start, the evening was catapulted to a heart-pumping level of praise as Kirk Franklin took the stage. In a production-packed opening number, Franklin performed a combination of his latest hits, including “Smile,” which was awarded Song of the Year during the show. Franklin also took home three additional honors, including CD of the Year, Producer of the Year and Contemporary CD of the Year. Franklin dedicated his awards to his team, pulling them up on stage to share the moment during his acceptance for CD of the Year and later stunned the crowd when he shared his award for Song of the Year with fellow nominee Darius Polk who penned Vashawn Mitchell’s “Nobody Greater.”
“Because God has been so kind to me…..He’s given me more than I deserve or could ever earn,” said Franklin. “I want to be a good Christian and I know to do that, I have to encourage others. That song “Nobody Greater” has ministered to me so deeply. If you don’t mind, I would be honored to share this award with [Darius Polk] because that song is incredible.”
Other top winners of the evening included Mary Mary, Kim Burrell, Smokie Norful and The Rance Allen Group who were honored with two trophies each. The New Artist of the Year award was presented to Y’anna Crawley who graciously thanked God for the opportunity to perform and use her gifts for his glory, as well as the fans for listening to her music.
The show was filled with stirring performances, including a collaborative medley of “Sweeter” by Kim Burrell; Jessica Reedy brought the audience to their feet with a rendition of “Put It on the Altar;” Le’Andria Johnson masterfully sang “Jesus;” and Martha Munizzi delighted the crowd with the spirited praise song, “Excellent.” Other big performers included William McDowell, whose rendition of “I Give Myself Away” transformed the Grand Old Opry House into a spirit-filled sanctuary, with the visibly moved crowd joined together in worship. A high-energy Hip Hop collaboration by Canton Jones, LeCrae and Da’T.R.U.T.H. culminated in a soulful rendition of “Awesome God.” Fred Hammond, Earnest Pugh, Richard Smallwood & Vision, James Fortune & Fiya, Ricky Dillard & New G all delivered powerhouse performances to the delight of the full-to-capacity crowd.
The show also recognized the great accomplishments of some of Gospel’s brightest stars. John P. Kee received the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments over a career that spans three decades and was serenaded by Isaac Carree, Sheila Lakin, Lowell Pye and Zacardi Cortez. Dorothy Norwood, dubbed “The World’s Greatest Gospel Story Teller,” received the Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award, presented by the veteran show host. Vy Higgensen, the first woman to host a morning show on New York radio as well as produce a faith-based musical on Broadway, received the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award for her work with the “Gospel for Teens” program.
The annual praise-raising celebration began with star-studded red carpet arrivals featuring luminaries from Gospel, television, film and politics, such as Tina Campbell (from Mary Mary), Teddy Campbell, Ernest Pugh, James Fortune, Vashawn Mitchell, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Isaac Caree, James Fortune, Shirley Murdock, Dr. Bobby Jones, Dorothy Norwood, Kurt Carr, Richard Smallwood, Dottie Peoples, Kim Fields, Regina Bell, Martha Munizzi, Trin-I-Tee 5:7, Wess Morgan, LeCrae, Canton Jones, Jessica Reedy, Le’Andria and others.
The 27th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards will air in nationwide syndication from January 21, 2012 to February 26, 2012 and premiere on GMC Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 8 p.m. EST.