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Christian singer Sandi Patty to make stop in Colorado Springs on farewell tour

February 24, 2017 Updated: February 24, 2017 at 8:02 am
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Sandi Patty performs at the Dove awards in Nashville, Tenn. in this file photo. The Dove awards honor Christian and gospel music. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Thirty-plus years ago, Sandi Patty was just a young woman with a big voice.

Cut to today and the contemporary Christian singer is a five-time Grammy Award winner with three platinum (1 million sales) and five gold (500,000 sales) albums and more than 40 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, 11 of which are consecutive female vocalist of the year honors.

Patty often is described as the most-awarded female artist in Christian music, a phrase that makes the 60-year-old chuckle.

"It doesn't say that's because I've been doing this longer than anybody else," she said. "That sort of comes with it."

Now she's giving much of it up - her current tour, "Forever Grateful," will be her last. She still will be involved with music, whether it's singing or teaching, but this season of her life means focusing on family - she and husband Don Peslis have eight children between them, ranging from 19 to 31, and grandchildren.

Patty will perform Tuesday evening at Sunrise Church in Colorado Springs.

The tour stop will spotlight music from throughout her career, including songs people have requested the most, such as "The Day He Wore My Crown," "We Shall Behold Him" and "Vía Dolorosa." She expects to hit on about 50-60 tunes during the evening.

As the pace of her life slows, it allows Patty a chance to reflect on how her faith has changed over the years.

"Something that I spoke and sang about was faith and how much God loved you," she said from her home in Oklahoma City. "When you get down to it, I needed to learn all that was true for me too. There's a depth and personal relationship. It's the foundation of my life. I know God loves me."

By the mid-1980s, Patty already had won two Dove Awards and begun singing backup for Christian musician Bill Gaither and the Bill Gaither Trio. But it was her rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986 that made her a household name.

Though she naturally appreciated the audience at the time, looking back is a different story.

"I felt like there were a lot of people listening, but I hadn't really found my voice," Patty said. "I'm not talking about singing - I hadn't found my voice. A lot of life happened and I found my voice awkwardly in places - I went through a very public divorce - but I've learned so much more about God and feel I've learned about the industry and how to be on stage and things like that. I have more to say now even though less people are listening."

The divorce nearly derailed her career. After news of her shattered marriage broke in 1992, from its ashes came rumors of infidelity. Patty eventually confirmed them in a confession to her church congregation and married Peslis, the man with whom she'd had the affair, in 1995. The whole ordeal left its mark spiritually, psychologically and professionally. She dropped out of touring for six years.

"The owning, naming and confessing of the sin in my life was the beginning of experiencing the freedom that only comes through Christ," Patty said in a 1998 interview with KSBJ, a Houston radio station. "I know I let my marriage down with John (Helvering) in huge ways. I have tremendous regrets about that."

In the same interview, she claimed to have used her ministry career as a substitute for a spiritual relationship with God.

"You think that's a replacement for a relationship and it is not," Patty said. "That is a lesson I have learned the hard way."

Her path to healing came through the work of reconnecting with her church and fans, including branching out into different genres such as pop concert performances with symphony orchestras.

In her 2005 memoir, "Broken on the Back Row," she expressed remorse for the affair and wrote about the hard work of finding her way back to God.

"It's an ongoing process," she said about healing. "I'm very thankful because I really thought I wouldn't sing again. I'm extremely thankful and grateful that I do get to share my heart in music and hopefully be an encouragement to people. God doesn't take all of our pain away. You think, 'When will this end?' Well, never, but what will happen is God is going to be with us in the midst of it and that's the part I love."

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