Familiar Christian names earn Grammy nominations

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Nominations for the 2009 Grammys are in and R&B artist Mary Mary received three nominations for Best Gospel Performance and Best Gospel Song ("Get Up") and Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album (The Sound). Brandon Heath, CeCe Winans and Kirk Franklin each received two nominations. Christian pop rockers Hawk Nelson broke out of the Gospel category to receive a nomination for Best Recording Package for their latest album, Hawk Nelson Is My Friend. The Jonas Brothers were nominated for Best New Artist, and American Idol's Jordin Sparks' duet with Chris Brown ("No Air") got the nod for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. Randy Travis' Around The Bend was nominated for Best Country Album. The Grammys will be handed out Feb. 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast live on CBS. For a complete list of nominees, visit www.Grammy.com. You'll find your favorite Christian music artists in the Gospel category.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) recently honored songwriter Brenton Brown for his song "Everlasting God" at their awards ceremony in London. The event honored the top writer and publisher members of the UK's Performing Right Society (PRS). "Everlasting God," the title cut from Brown's debut album, was recognized as one of the top 20 songs played on American radio in 2007. It was also the first time a Christian song has ever received that honor. "Everlasting God" was also nominated for a 2008 Dove Award for Worship Song of the Year. Brown has written other notable worship songs, including "Lord Reign in Me", "Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing)", "All Who Are Thirsty", "Holy" and "Humble King." His latest album, Because Of Your Love, was released in early 2008.

Inside Radio, which tracks radio statistics, reported in November that while Country radio is still the most popular music format in America, the second most popular is now Contemporary Christian music. The most popular overall radio format is now News/Talk Radio, nudging Country out of the top spot. The number of Contemporary Christian music radio stations has doubled in the past 10 years.

The 30th annual Gospel Music Week, the industry's premiere teaching and networking event, will take place April 18 to 22 in Nashville, TN. The event brings together artists and industry professionals for more than 100 artist performances, educational seminars, spiritual enrichment, and unparalleled networking opportunities. Speakers announced so far include worship leader and founder of the Passion conferences and sixsteprecords, Louie Giglio, and William P. Young, author of the surprise best-seller, "The Shack." The week culminates with the 40th Annual GMA Dove Awards on April 23 at the Grand Ole Opry House. For complete information on registration and tickets to the Dove Award, visit www.gospelmusic.org.

Hillsong United will be touring the U.S. in 2009, bringing their Hillsong United Encounter event to Miami and Los Angeles. The event is designed for pastors, youth leaders, worship leaders, musicians and students, and will feature guest speakers including Hillsong United's Joel Houston and Hillsong Church's senior pastor Brian Houston among others. Hillsong United will also be performing worship events across the country during the summer. For more information, visit the Hillsong United Web site. www2.hillsong.com/united.

And speaking of Hillsong, Hillsong Kids this month releases Follow You, a new CD, DVD and digital songbook, created specifically for children with fun, kid-friendly versions of popular praise and worship songs that encourage children to be devoted to Jesus.

Paul Colman, formerly of the Grammy-nominated, Dove Award-winning group Paul Colman Trio and now guitarist for Newsboys, releases his second solo project, History, this month. The album showcases the best of Colman's career, including two previously unreleased tracks and covers popular songs by best-selling artists, including Toby Keith's "If I Was Jesus" and Delirious' "History Maker."

The first ever Branson Gospel Music Convention will be held July 14 to 17 at the new Branson Convention Center. The inaugural event will focus on celebrating the legends and legacy of southern gospel music and will feature appearances by national and regional artists. Artists scheduled to appear so far include the Blackwood Quartet, The Stamps, The Florida Boys, and The Chuck Wagon Gang. The venue will feature 240 exhibit booths for artists and a 1,650-seat auditorium for showcase and main event concerts. In addition, the 2009 SGN Scoops Diamond Awards presentation will now take place during the Branson convention. The awards were previously given out during the annual National Quarter Convention.

Jan. 17 brings the 24th Annual Stellar Awards at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. The awards recognize African-American television, film and gospel stars. Performers at the event include Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin and Dionne Warwick. For a complete list of nominees, visit the Stellar Awards website. www.thestellarawards.com/soul.html

Rebecca St. James ended 2008 in Hollywood, wrapping up work on the film, "To The Wall." The film is directed by Carey Scott and tells the poignant story of two young men who embark on a cross-country journey to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington to connect with the histories of their war vet fathers. Along the way, the two meet up with St. James' character Annie, an Australian hitchhiking across the U.S. with her cousin, Ted. St. James says, "Annie brings some moments of inspiration and fun to the film and I can encourage movie-goers that it is a faith- and values-based production."

Christian rockers Skillet earned top honors when Radio & Records (R&R) named the band Top CHR Artist of the Year for 2008. Since R&R began publishing Christian Radio charts, Skillet has garnered more No. 1 songs from one recording—their album Comatose—than any other artist in the industry. The album spawned six consecutive hits: "Rebirthing," "The Last Night," "Comatose," "Older," "Those Nights" and "Whispers in the Dark." In October, the band released their first-ever live concert CD/DVD combo, Comatose Comes Alive. R&R also named GMA's three-time reigning Female Vocalist of the Year, Natalie Grant, as the most-played female artist on Christian radio this year. Grant is the seventh most-played artist overall, and the only female artist in the chart's Top 10.


For more Christian music news, visit Joanne's Gospel Soundcheck blog at Beliefnet.com www.blog.beliefnet.com/gospelsoundcheck