Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Michael W. Smith, Selah and Watermark bring the "Healing Rain" tour to Broadbent Arena on the 28th. Tickets went on sale in last month, and have been selling pretty well I hear, but at press time tickets were still available.

Smith has been in the Christian music limelight lately as nominees were announced for the 36th Annual GMA Music Awards and he topped the list with eight individual nominations. The Gospel Music Association produces the GMA Music Awards program, which recognizes achievement in all genres of gospel music. The ceremony take place on the 13th in Nashville.

Smith was honored with a nomination in the prestigious Artist of the Year category. His latest record Healing Rain, captured a nod in the Pop/Contemporary Recorded Album category, while the title track was recognized for Song of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song, and Worship Song. Smith was also recognized for Special Event Album of the Year for his contributions to the Rocketown Records compilation Gloria, A Christmas Celebration.

Healing Rain debuted at #11 on Billboard's Top 200, while the title track rose to #1 on Radio & Records A/C charts. West Virginia native Smith is one of the most successful artists in Contemporary Christian music in term of accolades. He's tallied 29 #1 singles, 13 Gold and five Platinum albums, 40 Dove Awards and three Grammy Awards. Sales of his18 studio albums account have topped 13 million.

36th Annual Gospel Music Association Music Awards Nominations for Michael W. Smith:

Artist of the Year

Song of the Year ("Healing Rain")

Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year ("Healing Rain")

Pop/Contemporary Recorded Album of the Year (Healing Rain)

Worship Song of the Year ("Healing Rain")

Special Event Album of the Year (Gloria, A Christmas Celebration)

Selah and Watermark open the concert. At a time when Selah's popularity is exploding on the Christian music scene, member Nicol Sponberg has decided to leave the group. From the group's official "open letter" about the topic:

"We are excited for Nicol as she embarks on a new chapter in her life of ministry with her husband, Greg Sponberg. As many of you know, Nicol and Greg were married about a year and a half ago. Greg is a graduate student at Moody Bible Institute and plans to graduate this summer with a Master of Divinity degree. They have a vision to be in ministry together as a team to impact people for Christ, and we certainly wish Nicol and Greg the very best as they travel down this new road of opportunities."

Newcomer Melodie Crittenden will appear with the group at the Louisville date.

Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets.

Traversing the nation in support of its third studio album, So Natural, Salvador will visit Eastern and Midwestern US cities through May, including Louisville April 7th. Joining the band will be By The Tree and independent newcomer Ricardo. Salvador garnered critical applause during last fall's stint of performances throughout the west for its radio hit and cover of "Heaven" by fellow Latin sensation Los Lonely Boys, which is also featured on the So Natural album.

Salvador erupted onto the music scene six years ago surrounded by buzz of its soulful music, powerful vocals and phenomenal live performances. Its widespread appeal to both pop and Latin audiences has kept the band touring an average of 200 dates a year, with appearances at Promise Keepers events, as well as Billy Graham and Franklin Graham Crusades and more. With five records to its credit, including the 2004 Dove Award winning Spanish-language album Con Poder (2003), Salvador has produced two Top 5 radio hits with "Breathing Life" and "Crucified" in addition to two Billboard Latin Music Award nominations.

I've seen them several times and the band can definitely "bring it" live, so if Tex-Mex pop is to your liking, you may want to check this out.

Fervent Records' By The Tree has made a name for itself mixing pop-rock melodies with the ever-popular worship sound. The group garnered its first No. 1 single this past year with "Beautiful One" topping the AC chart. At press time, the song was still in current rotation on Louisville Christian radio-nine months after it released to radio. Trust me, it's a pretty long time!

Ricardo Sanchez is a songwriter and musician whose music combines the contemporary gospel, Latino culture, rock and R&B styles into worship. Ricardo has performed worldwide from North Korea to the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula, on television, and all across the United States. He is the Associate Pastor and Music Director of the Scottsdale First Assembly, Dream Center in the Scottsdale, Arizona area.

The tour stops at Evangel World Prayer Conference Center, 6900 Billtown Road, on the 7th. Tickets are available at Family Christian Store on Outer Loop, The Wellspring Christian Book Store locations and at the door.

Christian music's longest-running festival, Ichthus, will be held at Ichthus Farm in Wilmore the 21th-24th. The huge line-up includes Newsboys, Toby Mac, Tait, Kutless, Reliant K, Pillar, By The Tree and many others.

The bands I'd like to see are: Day of Fire, Extol and new group the Showdown. Assuming I make it this year, I'll be checking them out and sharing my two-cents here.

Apparently there are some improvements to the festival this year as well. According the Ichthus website: "Ichthus is excited to incorporate a range of new improvements for Ichthus 2005. We have added nearly 1.5 miles of new gravel roads in the camping area for increased traffic mobility. We have increased our involvement with local and state officials to optimize traffic movement and flow. We have also finalized an agreement with WWFT 1250AM

to ensure quick and efficient information distribution to festival attendees".

My suggestion, if you planning on attending, is: get there early. There are a variety of ticket packages available (way too many for me to list here). Check out for all the info.

Last and unfortunately least, I had planned on telling you what a great show Day of Fire put on for free on March 3rd. They, along with Sanctus Real played a free show at Hurstbourne Baptist as part of the Ichthus "Let it Rain" mini-tour. Well, after looking forward to seeing DOF for weeks, I got sick on the 3rd and had to miss the show! So for now, the Ichthus Festival is the only way I'll see them I guess. Maybe I'll see them (and you?) there.