WASHINGTON - Singer Dana Scallon and liturgical music composer Marty Haugen dominated the first Unity Awards honoring the best Catholic music and videos.
Scallon, the onetime candidate for president of Ireland who records professionally as Dana, won or shared in seven awards, and Haugen won all four awards for which he was nominated.
The awards ceremony, sponsored by the new United Catholic Music and Video Association, was held Nov. 18 on the campus of The Catholic University of America, Washington.
The association was founded last year to support, encourage and promote he development of all forms of Catholic-oriented Christian music and video, including liturgical, praise and worship, contemporary, classical and instrumental compositions.
The group was the brainchild of Deacon Ronald Stein and his son, Phillip, who helps manage Heartbeat Records, a Catholic recording company in Iowa. "We based ourselves on the Gospel Music Association, which is a Protestant organization, and their annual awards, the Dove Awards," Philip Stein told the Register.
He said the Unity Awards are designed to "shed light on the hundred of Catholic artists who are not considered for Dove Awards because they are Catholic."
Also, for large Catholic functions, dioceses and other Catholic institutions often invite well-known 'Christian groups' who are not Catholic. Those groups are well known, to a large extent, because they have been promoted by the Gospel Music Association
Through the Catholic association, Heartbeat, Gregorian Institute of America and Oregon Catholic Press, have combined resources to promote Catholic artists, especially within the Catholic community.
The Washington awards ceremony was the group's first major effort to do just that. In all, 44 awards were handed out for individual achievements in music and video.
In addition, actress Gloria De Haven, in a special appearance during the awards, presented three inspirational awards.
Two went to musicians Tony Melendez and Renee Bondi. Melendez was born without arms and plays the guitar with his feet, and singer Bondi was paralyzed from the neck down following an accident. The third award went to Priests for Life founder Father Frank Pavone.
Dana won for best music video ("This Is My Body"), pop-contemporary song ("We Are One Body"), pop-contemporary album ("Say Yes"), spoken-word album ("The Rosary," with Father Kevin Scallon), ("We Are One Body"), female vocalist and songwriter.
In accepting the best songwriter award, Dana said, "I share this with all of the songwriters. The songs that we write are all from God . ... God is the creator of everything we do that is good."
Haugen won for best musical ("Mass of Creation"), choral collection "Come and Journey," with David Haas and Father Michael Joncas), liturgical song ("Shepherd Me, O God") and liturgical album ("All Are Welcome").
Other multiple winners were:
Mariella Ness, best international broadcast album ("Holy One of Israel") and best international artist.
Dents Grady, best country song ("Running Too Long") and best country album ("Running Too Long").
Franciscan Father Stan Fortuna best rap/hip-hop song ("Kum Ba Ya") and best rap/hip-hop album ("SacroSong").
Shawn Forrest, best mode rock/alternative song ("Keep Your Eyes on Me") and best new artist.
EWTN, best special event vide ("The Holy Father's Visit to Israel 2000") and best religious TV program ("Life on the Rock").
The evening's highlight came when the band Ceili Rain was named the winner of best rock album for its self-titled effort.
Group leader Bob Halligan vaulted from the front row of the auditorium onto the stage and accepted his Unity Award with similar enthusiasm.
"My wife said to me, `Why don't you combine Irish music with rock 'n' roll and write songs about God?" Halligan said in his acceptance speech. "I said, `That's the dumbest idea I ever heard."' Then, looking upward, Halligan said, "Not so dumb, eh, Boss?"
Many of the winners were not on hand to receive their awards. "It's testimony that many of the winners here tonight are out doing Christian ministry," said Haugen who performed "Shepherd Me, God," later during the ceremony.
The awards ceremony was taped by the EWTN cable channel for future broadcast.