MARIGOT–Local Gospel singer André “The Apostle” Webster has brought the prestigious International Gospel Artist of the Year Award to St. Martin/St. Maarten after wowing audiences with his electrifying performances at the Rhythm of Gospel Awards held in Jacksonville, Florida, from June 21 to June 25.
Several events were held in Omni Hotel, Jacksonville, with the main awards event taking place at Morocco Shrine Auditorium on Saturday, June 25. It was the Apostle’s second appearance at the Gospel Awards, where he was well received last year, but this time his reception by a largely international audience far exceeded his own expectations.
He was competing against stiff competition comprising some 100 artists.
“My first performance went very well, and the audience responded positively,” recalled Webster. “I was called out at number eight, which incidentally means new beginning. People were getting out of their seats, dancing and moving around. It was like a sunburst or a cloud burst came over the audience. They were shouting, cheering and clapping and it ended with a standing ovation.”
Webster, who attracted a lot of attention and curiosity as to where he was from, was accompanied at the event by Pastor Esmond Fleming and Mario Gumbs.
“It was just wonderful that one of our own from so far away was so well respected and received,” added Fleming. “Not everyone knew him before, but when they heard him that changed everything.”
The Apostle was nominated in four categories: Alternative Christian Gospel CD of the Year, Rhythm and Praise CD of the Year, Urban Contemporary Male Vocalist and International Gospel Artist of the Year, the last award being one of the biggest of the event.
His 3 performances were at the Salute to Parents of Fallen Children, a Praise and Worship Celebration and the main award event in Morocco Shrine Stadium, where all the artists were welcomed at a Hollywood-style red carpet photo reception.
The 3 songs he sang were “Daddy’s Shirt”, “Thank him in everything”, and “Oh, they frown.”
Webster was the last to perform at the main showcase event, something that Mario Gumbs observed was quite telling.
“I think it indicated that he had something quite special in his performances, and they kept him back for that reason,” said Gumbs.
Continued Webster: “People were telling me my performance was unique and that I had what it takes which was very encouraging, but I give the glory to God of course. All in all, there’s more to it than even I see with my eyes.
“There was a lot of media coverage and radio stations and producers were keen to ask questions and get our CDs. They wanted our photos and CD to give us airplay on their stations. I haven’t had that sort of response here at home. I didn’t ask them to play my CDs, they came to me. So that sort of exposure and recognition is really special. I see this success as purpose for the ministry, for what needs to be done for humanity, and not for my personal glory.”
Pastor Fleming said young gospel artists will be inspired by the Apostle’s success as it opens doors to follow this same path.
“Media coverage in St. Martin created thousands of votes online, so that was very instrumental. St. Martin/St. Maarten voted for one of their own and it really helped. We are genuinely thankful for that.”
Online voting accounted for about a third of an artist’s score, the rest made up by research into the artist, feedback and popularity or example, and the performances.
Fleming said they were impressed that the Mayor of South Carolina flew in to give his blessing and support to the event. Next year, the event will be held in Greenville, South Carolina.
The Apostle thanked SOS Radio, Radio Maranatha, MSR, PJD2, 721 News, Neutral News, Oral Gibbs, The Daily Herald, Le Pélican, 97150, Fax Info, Roddy Heyliger, and all the churches.