The 15th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration officially kicked off Super Bowl Weekend at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on January 31, 2014 with a night of music, praise and spirit-filled performances. The mega-event, sponsored by American Family Insurance (AFI), was co-hosted by television show host Wendy Williams and EXTRA TV correspondent AJ Calloway. The evening was full of great performances, memorable moments and appearances by NFL players and special guests, all on one stage to celebrate the love of faith, gospel music and football. The show will air in national syndication over broadcast television stations during February 2014. (Check station listings on www.superbowlgospel.com).
Super Bowl Gospel Celebration kicked off the night with an amazing pre-show which included a trio performance with recent GRAMMY® Award-winning Motown Gospel artist Tasha Cobbs and the AFI “Your Dream is Out There” Gospel Sensations contest winners Kristen Jamison and Valaree Wright-Pate.
Hosts Wendy Williams and AJ Calloway, both brought humor with light-hearted jokes and kept the packed theater laughing all night long. Performances that made the night special included GRAMMY® nominated Christian contemporary singer Natalie Grant who performed “Breathe On Me,” which inspired the audience to sing along and give praise. GRAMMY® Award-winning Contemporary Gospel duo Mary Mary hit the stage and brought the audience to their feet with uplifting performances of their classic hit singles “God In Me” and “Go Get It.
Bringing together the love of football and music, and led by Choir Director Myron Butler, the 40-member NFL Players Choir, composed exclusively of current and former players, including Hall Of Famers and Pro Bowlers, was one of the most anticipated performances during the celebration. The men took the stage and sang a foot-stomping rendition of The Winans classic hit “It’s Time,” leaving the audience screaming for an encore.
GRAMMY® Award-winning Gospel artist and Pastor of Perfecting Faith Church in New York, Donnie McClurkin gave an emotional performance of “We Are Victorious,” while Dove and Stellar Award-winning vocalist & actress Tamela Mann moved the audience to tears with her soulful and heartfelt performance of “Take Me To The King,” “I Surrender All” and “I Can Only Imagine.”
The biggest highlight of the evening was legendary entertainer and GRAMMY® Award-winning singer Patti LaBelle, who performed a duet of “If Only You Knew” and “Somebody Loves You Baby” with special guest — Season 12 American Idol winner Candice Glover. Ms. LaBelle also performed “When You’ve Been Blessed,” bringing the audience to their feet in awe of the iconic performer.
This year’s Super Bowl Gospel Celebration was led by renowned Music Director Ray Chew (American Idol, BET Awards, Miss Universe 2013) and special guest appearances included Reverend Jesse Jackson, who blessed the entire theater with a special prayer; and surprise performers Kierra Sheard, Doug E. Fresh and Papa San who joined Donnie McClurkin in a praise-filled, reggae inspired performance.
Since its inception in 1999, the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration has donated a portion of its proceeds and more than 5,500 tickets to local and national charities. This year’s benefactor is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Introduced by Alicia Matthews, Director of Multicultural Marketing and Business Development for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a special moment at this year’s concert included St. Jude patient Markell, a cancer survivor who shared his inspiring story of courage and triumph that touched the hearts of everyone in audience.