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Gospel legend Sandi Patty opens holiday tour in Hagerstown

November 16, 2012|By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Sandi Patty says she's admired Jason Crabb for several years. They're co-headlining a show at The Maryland Theatre the day after Thanksgiving.
Photo courtesy of Big Machine Media

Gospel legend Sandi Patty is coming to the Maryland Theatre Friday, Nov. 23, for the opening date of her "Christmas Celebration Tour" with Jason Crabb. During a phone chat this week from her home in Oklahoma City, Okla., we purposefully avoided the same old questions she's been asked many times before and dug deep for some off-the-beaten-path tidbits from her illustrious career. (Some comments have been edited for length.)

HERALD-MAIL: So Jason Crabb — how did this come about?

SANDI PATTY: I've known Jason's family (southern gospel's The Crabb Family) for many, many years. We all kind of got acquainted through Bill and Gloria Gaither whom I would say was the common denominator there. Jason sang with his family for many years and then kind of stepped out on his own and I've just loved watching his career blossom. We have jokingly said for years we need to do something together and this year it just kind of worked out.



HM: So will you be doing first half, second half, some collaboration, what?

PATTY: Yes, we will be doing some singing together. Then I'll do some stuff, he'll do some stuff, but we'll kind of both be involved the whole night … We have a game plan but of course not having done a show together yet, well, the only constant is change as they say. — It will be a very full night and I have to say, I actually purchased my first pair of cowboy boots ever for this tour. I just felt if I was doing something with Jason, I needed some cowboy boots, but they're festive, too — kind of red sparkly.


HM: You've had some interesting collaborations announced recently, several people you've never worked with before. You're doing a few dates with T.D. Jakes, who has more of the charismatic, black gospel audience and you're doing a date next year with the Turtle Creek Chorale, a gay men's chorus in Dallas. How do these various things come about and how do you decide if it's something you want to do or not?

PATTY: I just feel very strongly about this statement: I want to be a bridge builder more than anything else and that may not always look OK to other people, but that's the best way I can say it.

HM: One collaboration was with your Women of Faith comrade Patsy Clairmont earlier this year, the "Get Yer Happy On Tour." But the last leg of dates, including one semi-close to us (Woodbridge, Va.) was canceled. What happened?

PATTY: I think we just had an unfortunate experience with a promoter, to be real blunt and honest about it. Some of those dates just got pulled at the last minute and it was a shame as Patsy and I were really looking forward to it. I love her so much. Hopefully we can do something together again.

HM: Speaking of your Women of Faith pals, you and Amy Grant were on a lot of dates together for the Conference this year. Not to dredge up a bunch of old stuff from a long time ago, but obviously with having each gone through divorces while being among the most successful acts in contemporary Christian music, I sense you were each in a unique position to empathize with the other's journey. I know you're not BFFs, but you've certainly respected each other for a long time. Did either of you ever reach out to the other either at the time or since then?

PATTY: Yes, she was just very gracious and reached out and said, "I'm here if you need me"-kind of thing and I did the same and we had a chance to circle back and revisit some of that when we were together pretty much every weekend this year. And not so much circle back around in terms of let's talk about all this horrible stuff, but just circle back and share how very blest each of us are to have made it through the tough times and share how grateful we each are for the men we have in our lives now. They're our best friends and people who make us laugh the most, the people we really celebrate with.


HM: I want to talk about some kind of obscure stuff that's come up in some of the fan groups over the years. I know there've been some non-album tracks recorded for various projects over the years that for whatever reason, didn't end up on the different albums. There's a snippet of one on the "Le Voyage" making-of video and I know of at least one from the "Love Overflowing" sessions. You were pretty busy back in those years, but did you ever or often record, say, 15 tracks but only have room for 10 on an album?
PATTY: That's a really good question. I'm gonna have to do a little research on that. I know, early on, record companies used to give you these ridiculous budgets and I mean ridiculous in a good way so you would often have the luxury of recording a few extra songs but where those songs might be now, I have no idea.

HM: You know, of course, with one of your big idols Streisand, she just released a set of studio outtakes.
PATTY: Right!

HM: Did you lose some of your early career mementos in the fire? (Patty suffered an office fire arson in April, 1990)
PATTY: You know, we actually had a vault within that building so a lot of the early masters were not destroyed since they were in this fireproof vault, although I lost a lot of shoes and dresses, which was very sad but nothing life changing. The good thing was nobody was hurt. Some of my awards were destroyed but as we often say in our family, "This is a first-world problem," as opposed to a third-world problem.

HM: Did the Grammy people or the Gospel Music Association people (the group that awards the Doves) replace them?
PATTY: Yes, you know the GMA replaced them all.


HM: Or the RIAA (the agency that awards Gold and Platinum albums)?
PATTY: Yes, they did as well.


HM: Speaking of clothes and shoes, one fan wants me to ask — do you remember that asymmetrical blue dress with the sparkly, dangly sleeves you wore to the Grammys one year? And I think there was a red one too, right?

PATTY: Yes


HM: Were those custom? Do you remember who designed them?

PATTY: Yes they were custom. They were made for me by, oh my goodness, I can't remember the designer's name but he was out of L.A. and the reason I loved them, he was the same designer who made all of Dorothy Hamill's things she had skated in so when I talked to him I told him I'd really liked that blue he'd used and that I'd really love a dress in that color. And he also made a red one and a black one as well that were all lovely. And yes, I have those all still.


HM: Was the red one identical to the blue except for color or slightly different?
PATTY: The blue one was longer on one side, the red one was a little bit different — shorter in the front but longer in the back.


HM: Long-time fans also talk about some of your old tours, some of which, like the "Another Time Another Place Tour" were never released on VHS or DVD. Who arranged all those great hit medleys from that era? Was that Jay Rouse? (Patty's pianist at the time.)
PATTY: Jay did some of those, David Clydesdale did some and Dick Tunney did some too. One of those medleys, that begins with "Let There Be Praise," I still do that one sometimes now.


HM: Even if they were never intended for commercial release, do you have soundboard tapes of any of those old tours?
PATTY: Again, that would take a little research. I don't know for sure but my guess would be no. I don't think we had the capability to just record anything then like we could now. Like the "Another Time, Another Place" shows with Wayne Watson, I don't know if we have that particular one or not.


HM: I know this isn't really your thing musically, but considering your vocal gifts, did you ever have any professor or voice teacher either at San Diego State or in Anderson (Anderson Christian College in Indiana) who tried to get you to consider an opera career?

PATTY: (At both schools), they just hated when they heard me sing anything pop, they'd say, "You're just gonna ruin your voice. You need to do opera." And I thought about that awhile because I do love that genre —


HM: (cutting in) — Do you and (your husband) Don ever go to the opera?
PATTY: Well, there's not a whole lot of opera really in Oklahoma City (laughs). We have the Grand Old Opry (in Nashville, Tenn.), but that's not really the same thing. One of our daughters (Ali) is studying opera now so to see her is really amazing. She has a real knack for it.


HM: But is there a role you ever wanted to try or an aria you wanted to record?
PATTY: Not really, you know, probably the closest I ever get to any of that is some of the Christmas stuff that's a little more, well, they call it "legit" as if the rest is ill-legit, you know (laughs). In college I got to do "The Messiah" and "Die Fledermaus" so, you know, I got to do enough of it to get a taste for it, I think. But I would really enjoy something on Broadway more than opera I think, like when I recently did "Hello Dolly" … which was so fun.


HM: But those little glimmers we've heard of you doing more classical things, like "Ave Maria" or even "The Prayer," your duet with (husband) Don, it just seems like something your voice is just so well suited for, so I'm just throwing that out there. That said, can you give us any glimpse into what your next album will be?
PATTY: Yes, probably more of a "Hymns of Faith"-type project where we do some familiar hymns but I like to think we take things you think you've heard and do them a little bit differently.


HM: Yes, you're so good at that.
PATTY: Well, I have some great arrangers I work with. So that's probably the direction we'll go next.


HM: One thing you've never really discussed in any of your books or interviews, and I suspect it's because you're so humble, so I don't mean this in any kind of an arrogant or prideful way, but was there a point in your teen years or even in college when you had sort of a light bulb moment and realized your vocal gifts were not just something everybody had? Did your parents ever sit you down and say, "I think we might be experiencing something potentially bigger here," than, say, someone who would be a music teacher, not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.
PATTY: Well, because I kind of grew up in the business (Patty toured with her parents and brothers on the church circuit as The Ron Patty Family and recorded several albums), I think I really saw the hard-working side of it and the business side of it. It never really was any kind of a glamorous thing for me so I really felt like I could make more of an impact teaching and just being in kids' lives every day. So that's where I was headed and then in college I got invited to sing here and there, and honestly it just came to be more than a hobby and eventually it got to the point that I had to really make a decision — is this something I really want to do long term, so no, there really wasn't any sort of aha moment.


HM: Do you remember where your first, solo, ticketed show was? I know you did a lot of church shows early on.
PATTY: No, I don't really remember. I do remember I used to call Bill Gaither and tell him the offering or tell him how many tickets we sold and he was very much like this proud papa. I just remember being so surprised that people would actually pay to come hear me sing and it kind of still really does surprise me. I don't take it for granted and I'm so grateful for it.


HM: You and (accompanist Steve Potts) have been together so long now. He must know your stuff so well by now. Do you ever have really crazy, spontaneous moments when you say, "You know, let's pull out 'Pour on the Power' or 'Face to Faith' just for kicks"?
PATTY: Yeah, we will do that sometimes. Steve carries this old suitcase/briefcase-sort of thing and he has just about everything I've ever done. He can play by ear, but he doesn't like to always rely on just that, but I'll say, "Do we have that?" and he usually does.


HM: The '83 live album ("More Than Wonderful") is such a classic — were the strings and everything really recorded live or was some of that done in the studio first?
PATTY: Everything, the vocals, the strings, the singers, was all done live in the studio and then we did sort of a hybrid of that with the live audience. That's almost exactly how we did the first Christmas album, "The Gift Goes On" as well.


HM: Hmm, warm down? What's that process?
PATTY: Just like when you come back for a run, you don't run five miles, then just plop down in the chair. You have to cool down and the vocal cords are the same. So I'll just go back stage and hum lightly just to give them a chance to warm down.


HM: Are all the top notes still there or has the timbre changed? I know you've had some things re-orchestrated over the years. Have you ever had any real vocal trouble?
PATTY: I hesitate to even say this out loud but I feel like I got the message early on to really take care of my voice. A couple times I've had to do vocal rest for like six weeks or something, but I've never had any major issue with my voice. … I have to be a little more diligent in warming up and in my tone, I think you can hear a little more age but in some ways it's a little richer sounding. When I listen to the early projects, when I was like, what, 23 or 24, I sound like a 23 or 24 year old. I think maybe there's a little more full spectrum in the timbre now. And when you live a lot of life, that comes through in the way you tell a story or a song too.

HM: Your former label, Word, keeps issuing all these compilations. Do they consult you on any of that or do you have any say in it?
PATTY: No


HM: Some are nice to have some stuff gathered in one place, but like the one that just came out was called "Rarities," yet it had nothing previously unreleased on it which is really lame. Do you have any opinions of these?
PATTY: I do, but I don't think I'll share it.


HM: The '83 live album ("More Than Wonderful") is such a classic — were the strings and everything really recorded live or was some of that done in the studio first?
PATTY: Everything, the vocals, the strings, the singers, was all done live in the studio and then we did sort of a hybrid of that with the live audience. That's almost exactly how we did the first Christmas album, "The Gift Goes On" as well.


HM: I know the songs "More Than Wonderful" and "I've Just Seen Jesus" are a LOT to live up to, but it seems like such a no-brainer to have you and (duet partner) Larnelle Harris do a whole album together. Surely that's been discussed right? Especially since you've done so many dates together in the past couple years.

PATTY: Yes, there were (discussions) but that's exactly why we never did. We recognized that "I've Just Seen Jesus" and "More Than Wonderful" are really just those once-in-a-lifetime-type songs and we just decided a long time ago, we would just keep it to those unless something really AMAZING came across our paths. So those have remained really special and we're playing Carnegie Hall together in April.


HM: Great! Thanks for your time.
PATTY: You really did your homework, thank you.

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If you go ...

WHAT: Sandi Patty and Jason Crabb: A Christmas Celebration Tour

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: $25 to $38

CONTACT: For tickets: Call The Maryland Theatre box office at 301-790-3500 or go to www.mdtheatre.org

MORE: For more information on Sandi Patty, go to SandiPatty.com

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