BC artists shine at the 38th Annual Covenant Awards
by Peter Fleck
British Columbia’s reputation as a hotbed of Christian music was further cemented during the 38th Annual Covenant Awards on January 26 in Edmonton. More than a quarter of the 34 Canadian Christian music awards handed out went to artists residing in the Metro Vancouver area.
Foremost was Abbotsford’s Tim Neufeld who took home three trophies, including the preeminent Artist of the Year. Tim Neufeld And The Glory Boys were also named Group of the Year. Neufeld then shared the Collaboration of the Year prize with Ontario’s Ali Matthews for the song, “Story”.
In accepting the Artist of the Year accolade from Gospel Music Association (GMA) Canada, Neufeld was quick to point out, “It’s truly not ever about one person.” After paying tribute to his bandmates, Neufeld recalled the key role fellow artists in the room played in his development. Brian Doerksen’s “Psalm 121” was the first song he learned to play on guitar. Jon Buller gave him the first opportunity to play on the “big stage.” And his first memory of being overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and breaking down in tears was at an Arlen Salte concert. “There’d be no trophy, there’d be no recognition if it wasn’t for the people, the giants, upon whose shoulders I have climbed and benefited from for decades,” he explained.
Meanwhile, just beginning to make a name for himself is Andrew Marcus, pastor of worship and creative arts at Coquitlam Alliance. Marcus captured both the prestigious Song of the Year tribute for “You Are With Me” and Praise & Worship Song of the Year for “Glory To His Name”. Both tunes come from his 2016 CD, Constant, the sixth studio album for Marcus but his first major-label project.
Excited about impacting a wider audience with his music, Marcus said, “As I craft songs, I always have two filters. I always think of the Word of God and my home church. And I just think — how can I point them to just the goodness and the grace that Jesus has shown me.”
Also pulling in two Covenant Awards was Capilano University instructor, Warren Dean Flandez, winning Urban Song of the Year for Never Dim My Light and Gospel Song of the Year for Joy! During his performance, Flandez wowed the room with his incredible vocal range. Accepting the Gospel Song award with co-writer Karolyn Volbek, he explained, “I come from a Gospel background as a child and it’s taken me almost half my life to come home to the church.”
Other winners from the Vancouver area were The Shiyr Poets featuring Brian Doerksen with Inspirational Album of the Year for Songs For The Journey, Volume 2, and Perry Springman with Children’s Album of the Year for Happy Beach.
The evening was centred on the theme “Past, Present and Future.” Here B.C.’s rich heritage of Christian music came to the fore. Among those taking the stage were previous Lifetime Achievement Award winners from the province: Connie Scott, Brian Doerksen, Roy Salmond and Rhythm & News featuring The Light Magazine’s music reviewer Kevin Pollard.
But perhaps most gripping was the Lifetime Achievement Award handed out posthumously to Abbotsford’s Chris Janz. Son of noted Canadian Christian music pioneer, Paul Janz, the younger Janz was an extremely gifted songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, singer, arranger and producer who had earned numerous Covenant nominations and awards. He had also been active in past GMA Canada weeks, performing and critiquing emerging artists.
Following the release of his 2015 Complicated Me CD and song, “Broken”, Janz went public by chronicling his road to addiction in an Internet blog post titled, “I Am Not Afraid And You Are Not Alone.” Through it all, Janz wrote, “I lean on my Christian faith daily. The biggest role of faith is knowledge that I am not alone…knowing there is Someone infinitely greater than myself, and that He still cares about me, has at times been the greatest comfort and source of inspiration.” Seeking to change people’s perception of what he called a disease, he urged people to “look for the human under the horror of addiction.”
Sadly, it was Janz’s struggle with addiction that led to his sudden death on December 14, 2016 at the age of 39. Before leading people in a moment of silence, fellow B.C. artist, Jon Buller applauded Janz’s bravery. Quoting Mother Teresa, Buller said, “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.”
A full list of Covenant Award nominees and winners is at gmacanada.ca.