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Gospel legend Richard Smallwood celebrated in style at BMI Trailblazers Luncheon

Richard Smallwood has a storied career in gospel music and his songs will undoubtedly live on in posterity. His extensive catalogue of songs is filled with anthems for the church and includes "Center of My Joy," “Total Praise,” "Healing," "Trust Me" and too many others to mention. But that’s not all, the maestro is also known for his humble spirit and his abiding faith in God.

Richard Smallwood performs "Total Praise" during the 15th Annual BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Awards Luncheon, held January 17 in Nashville.
Richard Smallwood performs "Total Praise" during the 15th Annual BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Awards Luncheon, held January 17 in Nashville.
Erika Goldring
 Richard Smallwood at the 15th Annual BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards Luncheon, held January 17, 2014 in Nashville
Arnold Turner

On Friday, January 17, industry peers and longtime admirers came together to salute this gospel great at the BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards Luncheon held at Rocketown in Nashville, Tenn. during Stellar Awards weekend.

There was definitely excitement in the air as photographers clamored to snap as many pictures as they could of the gospel legend. Many journalists made sure they got their pic with the maestro as well and he willingly obliged. Many attendees shared their favorite Smallwood songs with reporters as they were interviewed on the carpet. Needless to say “Total Praise’ and “Center of My Joy” were the most repeated. Many also spoke of how glad they were that this moment of honor had arrived.

It makes me feel really, really proud and I am so glad that someone of his stature with such an impact on the gospel community is now able to be honored” ~ Jason Nelson, Stellar Award-winning gospel artist

A capable lineup of performers were selected to sing the timeless songs of Richard Smallwood. Digging into the vast Smallwood catalogue Donnie McClurkin kicked off the dynamic performances with a medley of “Jesus Lover of My Soul” and “Center of My Joy.” Anaysha Figueroa-Cooper and Timiney Figueroa beautifully delivered “Angels.” Y’Anna Crawley paid homage to her fellow DC-area artist with “He Won’t Leave You.” Other performances included Dorinda Clark Cole with a rousing “What He’s Done For Me” and Marvin Sapp with “Healing.” Yolanda Adams, who lovingly referred to Smallwood as “Uncle Richard,” delivered “I Love The Lord” with a touch of “Total Praise.”

During his acceptance speech, Richard Smallwood thanked those who helped to shape his career including gospel great and trailblazer Edwin Hawkins. According to the maestro, after seeing the Hawkins Family perform when he was 19 years old, he decided that gospel music was what he was supposed to do. Also in attendance supporting him was his cousin, Robert Clements and Jared Sawyers, Vice-Chair, DC Host Committee for the Gospel Music Heritage Foundation’s Evolution of Gospel concert that honored Richard Smallwood at the Kennedy Center in Sept. 2013.

Although the audience heard a sampling of “Total Praise,” Catherine Brewton, BMI Vice President Writer/Publisher Relations wanted more. What followed was a master class in “Total Praise” as the maestro took to the keys and was ably backed by the always superb Donald Lawrence & The Co. The song came to its pulsating conclusion as Smallwood showed why he earned the nickname “maestro” as he masterfully navigated the musicians and singers to the heights of musical excellence bringing “Total Praise” to its thunderous crescendo.

It is often said that people should be given their flowers while they live. It is safe to say that Richard Smallwood received a lovely bed of roses nestled within a tribute fit for a legend during the BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards.

© 2014 Sarah Hearn. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission. DCMA rules will be applied.

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