BeBe and CeCe Winans make a joyful noise again

BeBe and CeCe Winans have rarely shared a stage in the past decade, mostly because, BeBe jokes, he’s allergic to the word “tour.”

So when the siblings who have shaped and defined gospel music for more than 40 years stepped out together at the Rialto Center for the Arts last month, “It was like getting on a bike again. There’s no fear. It’s fun,” said BeBe. “(CeCe) knows my strengths and I know hers. She knows where I’m going by looking at me. We’ve spent so many years together and, add to the fact that we’re family, and it’s magical.”

In a separate phone conversation, CeCe tapped into that familial sixth sense and also used the bike analogy to describe performing with her brother. But, she added, “One of the things about singing with family, you appreciate it so much. It was like home. You don’t have to warm up, you don’t have to figure out how we can blend. No one knows you better.”

The occasion for this live reunion was the BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Honors, where the Winans siblings, as well as Mary Mary, were bestowed with the Trailblazer Award. The show, hosted by Yolanda Adams and featuring a slew of gospel performances — including Deborah Cox with Fred Hammond and Marvin and Debbie Winans singing BeBe & CeCe’s music — will air at 7 p.m. Sunday on TV One.

BeBe and CeCe performed their first hit from 1984, “Up Where We Belong.”

This is the 17th production of the show, but the first time it’s aired on TV in several years. It’s also the second occasion for the celebration to be held in Atlanta instead of Nashville, Tenn., and Catherine Brewton, vice president at BMI’s Atlanta office, plans to “make a valiant effort to keep it here.”

BMI — Broadcast Music Inc. — is a performing rights organization that handles music royalties, publishing and licensing for artists.

“It was a pivotal time in the show’s production,” Brewton said of the ceremony, “but the content was some of the best audio work that we’ve produced.”

This year’s Trailblazers recipients — the Winans and Mary Mary (sisters Erica Atkins-Campbell and Trecina Tinkins-Campbell) — were chosen, Brewton said, because of their long-term impact on gospel music.

CeCe Winans had already been honored individually, but with a new record coming soon and BeBe’s continued visibility — he’ll be in Atlanta for the premiere of his musical, “Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story,” at the Alliance Theatre in April — it was the ideal time to coronate the duo.

“The Winans family has such loyalty to the gospel community and some of the best voices you’ll ever hear,” Brewton said. “They’ve crossed every format, from R&B to pop, and were the first gospel artists to hit some major pinnacles. The fact that people will get to see them and the other Winans (Debbie and Marvin) outside of their family gatherings … it was a major feat.”

Both BeBe and CeCe live in Nashville, where CeCe and her husband started the Nashville Life church four years ago.

“It’s a church full of young people. We’re definitely the senior citizens,” she said with a laugh.

CeCe will release her first solo album in eight years in May (it’s tentatively called “Let Them Fall in Love”), but has stayed on the sidelines regarding BeBe’s musical.

“It’s his project, but I know that BeBe, when he puts his mind to doing something, he’s determined and dedicated. I’m just praying that it’s awesome,” she said.

BeBe describes the process so far as exhilarating and exhausting — “I will get the best sleep after that first performance,” he said with a laugh.

But even though “Born for This …” is his solo gig, he maintains much affection for his sibling partnership.

“Without a doubt, CeCe is my favorite person to sing with. There’s an understanding there and an accomplishment with what we’ve done together,” he said. “No one appreciates that more so than the person who has gone through it with you.”

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