Thursday, September 6th, 2012, Verizon’s How Sweet The Sound Gospel Celebration kicked off at the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie in the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area. Thanks to the great people of the DFW area alongside our esteemed hosts and judges and wonderful corporate sponsors Verizon and United Healthcare, the event was a resounding success. We were blessed with six of the best choirs that the region has to offer, including two returning regional winners from past years and they all did a great job. Bishop Hezekiah Walker and DFW house choir Divinely Chosen began the evening on an uplifting note with a performance of his hit single “Souled Out.” After Bishop Walker got the crowd on their feet, our hosts Donald Lawrence and Yolanda Adams welcomed the audience to the fifth annual How Sweet The Sound Gospel Celebration. The DFW audience shows their excitement and support as CeCe Winans, Erica Campbell (of Mary Mary), Fred Hammond and Bishop Hezekiah Walker are introduced. They are clearly happy to bear witness to the premier gospel event in America. The first choir to perform was Selah, directed by Titus Glenn. The small but powerful choir sang “Awesome God and thanks to their soloist, good choir direction and a unique interpretation of the song, they bounced back from a shaky start to win the crowd over. The judges were impressed by their surprising power. Next up was Marquinn Middleton & The Miracle Chorale singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” This choir set the bar early with their intricate arrangements and choreography. Middleton and The Miracle Chorale was the first choir of the evening to get a standing ovation. They made the song their own, even prompting former HSTS host CeCe Winans to proclaim that she had “never heard Great is thy faithfulness quite like that before.” Carnell Davis and Incorporated to Praise went up next and sang, “Lift the Savior Up.” The choir sang the song very well. Their movements were unique and precise as well. Their overall performance was awesome but the judges felt that for some reason it did not connect with the crowd. DFW was then treated to a CeCe Winans performance of “He’s Concerned.” Her voice was absolutely flawless as always. How Sweet The Sound fans should be familiar with Donald Lawrence’s knowledge of the word, as he has been the host for five years running and he never hesitates to sprinkle in some ministry along with the inspiring songs. This year was no different, as he instructed the audience to operate in their area of gifts/grace. Local favorite followed Lawrence’s mini-sermon with a medley of his many hits. Hammond, being a gospel great and DFW resident was of course received well. He ran through his biggest songs as the crowd sang along so well that it sounded as if Fred and company had a few thousand extra choir members. Just when we thought it could not get any better, HSTS co-host Yolanda Adams comes to the stage to perform her hit single “Be Still.” The choir portion of the evening reconvened with returning regional winner St. Mark Sanctuary Choir, who sang “The Worship Medley.” Their performance was truly special. The 70+ strong choir proved that their is indeed strength in numbers. The choir had the entire audience, including judge Erica Campbell on their collective feet. They raised the bar once again on a night that already had great performances. “I love a choir that can remind me of the goodness of the Lord, I feel so much anointed right now,” said Bishop Hezekiah Walker. God’s Tabernacle of Deliverance Bishop’s Choir had a hard act to follow but they came out and represented well. The Desoto, TX choir, directed by Ivan Pickles sand “God Wants a Yes,” and they took the crowd to church. They had a lot of intricate movements but they never lost connection to the music, providing one of the tightest performances of the night. The final choir was local favorite St. John Church Music Choir. The returning regional winners put on an uplifting performance of “Search Me Lord.” They did not disappoint their local supporters and they definitely won over some new ones with their showmanship and pure singing. Before the winners were announced, Mary Mary’s own Erica Campbell hit the stage for a resounding performance of Walter Hawkins classic “Changed.” Bishop Walker followed her up with the hit song “You’re All I Need.” Finally we arrived at the moment everyone had been waiting for…the winner of the Verizon People’s Choice Award (decided by in-house text voting) was local fan favorite St. John Church Music Ministry. They were awarded with a check for $5000 for winning the award. St John also won the HopeLine award for donating the most cell phones of any participating choir. Hosts, Donald Lawrence and Yolanda Adams, then invited St. Mark Sanctuary Choir and St. John’s Church Music Ministry to the stage as the two top vote getters of the night to announce the winner and runner up. The grand prizewinner for the 2012 How Sweet The Sound Dallas regional is Arkansas’ own, St. Mark Sanctuary Choir. After the winners were announced, all of the talent joined onstage with Donald Lawrence to sing his song “Giants.” We would like to thank Dallas for an uplifting evening of praise. Next stop is Atlanta on Monday, September 10th at Phillips Arena. Get your tickets here.