Tonight I attended the SGN Music Awards at River of Life church in Smyrna. This set of awards is organized and sponsored by the Unthanks, who run www.SoGospelNews.com. This afternoon, a friend who couldn't attend said, "I hope they get a few people out for the event." Talk about being off the mark...
I arrived an hour early to help pass out programs. At 30 minutes before show-time, we ran out of programs. At 20 minutes, we were running out of seats. Chris and Amy Unthank became emergency crowd control, banning saved seats and finding single empty seats to match up with the crowd gathering in the lobby. In the end, every seat was filled, and the lobby crowd stood for the whole show.
The nominees for these awards are chosen by the staff of SoGospel, and then voted on by the public. Besides the standard "Favourite Group" awards, they take it a step further and do a few industry related awards like "Engineer" and "Producer". And actually, this is really cool: The "Songwriter" and "Producer" categories are broken up into "Artist" and "Professional" divisions. So often, it's the performing songwriters who win public-voted awards, so it's nice to see full-time staff writers get some formal recognition.
The show opened with the Freemans, and they had great energy for kicking things off. Some of the performers from the Harmony Honors were on stage again tonight. Tribute Quartet and Mike and Kelly Bowling returned with the same song, and Three Bridges sang a different song, "Step Back on the Rock" (minus the stage leap - much more dangerous in this location!). The King's Heralds have been in ministry for over 80 years, but tonight they were up for Breakthrough Artist of the year! I loved what they did at NQC last year, and they were fantastic tonight.
Gordon Mote had one of the best performances of the night with "Somebody Who Can", with the Isaacs on background vocals. So cool! The Imperials were total rock stars with their version of an older song called "Water Grave". I've never heard the original, but I loved this song! Karen Peck and New River were awesome, as usual. Karen Peck really understands stage presence. So many artists try to fill every empty bar of music with some kind of Gospel shout-out: "Aren't-you-glad-Jesus-came-down-and-died-and-saved-you-from-death?" Really, who's going to say no to that? Karen's not afraid to simply hold her ground, sit in the music, and communicate the message. Love her!
Gold City sang their awesome song "Preach the Word". This song always shakes me up. You know, the exact week Dad retired from 43 years of ministry, I got the call saying my Visa was approved, allowing me to take my ministry to Nashville. I don't think that was a coincidence. I would never compare my ministry to Dad's, but I can't help but feel that God was in that timing.
HisSong ended the night on a crazy high note with "Joy in my Soul". Overall, this was such a great night! It was well organized and smoothly run, and when your main problem is not finding enough seats for the throngs of people walking through your door, well, who can complain.
My suggestion? Next year - the Ryman!