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Tomlin is top Dove winner; Chapman gets 50th career award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Well-known worship leader Chris Tomlin took home five Dove Awards at the 37th GMA Music Awards, four of them in top categories. In accepting Male Vocalist of the Year honors, Tomlin recounted how he auditioned for a singing group when he was younger and they rejected him, telling him he’d never be a singer.

“So this is pretty cool,” he said to laughter.

Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God,” which he co-wrote with Jesse Reeves and Ed Cash, was named Song of the Year and Worship Song of the Year. Cash received the Producer of the Year award for the second year in a row.

Tomlin also received the coveted Artist of the Year award. For his acceptance speech, he said he wanted to read something from the greatest artist of all-time before reading from Psalm 96.

Tomlin’s fifth award came from his work on the Special Event Album of the Year, a compilation titled, “Music Inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.”

John Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association, said in a statement after the awards show at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House, “There were many spirit-filled and joyful moments during this year’s GMA Music Awards, and it is always great to see new faces emerge alongside already established artists, linking the past to the present and offering a glimpse into the future of gospel music.

“Nowhere was that more apparent than in the poignant symbolism of Chris Tomlin’s arriving into the spotlight as this year’s most honored artist in gospel music on the same night that Steven Curtis Chapman reached the newer artists as he did when he invited Chris to tour with him last year. The storyline of these two artists has now been forever connected by their achievements tonight,” Styll said.

Jeremy Camp, David Crowder of David Crowder Band, Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall and Third Day’s Mac Powell gave a special acoustic performance in honor of Chapman. Chapman took home a record-setting 50th Dove Award for his work on the Narnia album. Fifty awards is a record unmatched by anyone in any major awards show.

The four singers sat on stools and took turns playing guitar and backing each other up on a string of Chapman’s hits, including “For the Sake of the Call” and “I Will Be Here.” The crowd stood and sang along to “Dive,” the final tribute song. Afterward, an emotional Chapman hugged his wife and climbed on stage to hug the quartet and acknowledge the crowd.

Last year’s big winners, Casting Crowns, took home their second-in-a-row Group of the Year honor, with lead singer and Southern Baptist youth pastor Mark Hall saying that “a song may change your afternoon, but only God can change your life.”

Other major awards included a first-time Female Vocalist of the Year award for Natalie Grant. Grant joked that in her career she’s shut down a lot of record labels. Her line thanking Curb Records “for staying in business” got a big laugh. Christa Wells, writer of Grant’s hit “Held,” received the Songwriter of the Year award for the first time.

Rock band The Afters was named New Artist of the Year only a week after being invited to perform their hit song “Beautiful Love” on MTV’s “TRL.” The group’s musical trajectory includes ties to Prestonwood Baptist Church in the Dallas area.

Also among the winners: Leonardo (who uses just his first name) for Spanish Language of the Year for his self-titled debut album. Leonardo is a member of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., and a former church music minister and worship leader.

A complete list of winners can be viewed at www.gmamusicawards.com.

The show was hosted by gospel superstars Rebecca St. James and Kirk Franklin. Performances ran the gamut from hard-core southern gospel to hard rock. Ernie Haas and the Signature Sound Quartet, whose tight harmonies and energetic stage presence hearken back to the days of the Statesmen and the Blackwood Brothers, got the crowd on their feet, while Portland-based band Kutless brought its rock sound to the stage.

Country music’s mega-band Sawyer Brown performed their recent gospel single “Mission Temple Fireworks Stand.” Other performers included Natalie Grant, Rebecca St. James with Barlowgirl, Mark Schultz, Martha Munizzi, Israel and New Breed, Third Day, Kirk Franklin and Chris Tomlin. The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir appeared via satellite.

Appropriately, Tomlin closed out the night at the piano, leading the audience in singing “How Great Is Our God,” followed by “How Great Thou Art” a cappella.

The Dove Awards will be televised nationally Saturday, April 15, from 8-10 10 p.m. Eastern on the Guardian Television Network, one of 36 family friendly and Christian TV and radio channels carried on the Sky Angel nationwide direct-to-home satellite television service.