Contemporary Christian music icon Sandi Patty recently announced that she’s retiring from the road following her extensive “Forever Grateful” tour, which kicks off Feb. 11, 2016 in Lufkin, Texas.
“It just seems time to slow down and help introduce my kids, and see what this next season looks like,” Patty tells Billboard. Four of her children will be performing with her on the tour and others will be working behind the scenes, making it a family affair. “[I want to] see what this next season looks like. I’ll always feel like I have something to say. I’ll always be saying it through music. I just won’t hit the road like in years past.”
Before wrapping her farewell tour in the spring of 2017, the five-time Grammy winner will be keeping a busy schedule that includes performing at Carnegie Hall in November for the fifth annual Christmas in New York event as well as embarking on her Christmas Blessings tour. In February 2016, she’ll also host the Sandi Patty cruise through the Eastern Caribbean featuring Selah, Sheila Walsh, Angie Smith and Wayne Watson.
In 2016, Patty will release a new album, Forever Grateful, on her own label to coincide with the launch of her farewell tour. “I’m back to doing it old school,” says Patty, the most-awarded female artist in Christian music, winner of four Billboard Awards and more than 40 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, including 11 consecutive female vocalist of the year honors. “I’ve been working with Greg Nelson. Michael W. Smith and I have been working on a song. I’ve been doing some writing, working with Cindy Morgan and Nichole Nordeman, who are helping me craft some things.”
The veteran Christian singer first burst onto the national scene in 1986 when she sang “The Star Spangled Banner” during the rededication of the Statue of Liberty. Since then she’s sung at three presidential inaugurations and expanded her audience beyond the usual Christian music circles by performing with symphony orchestras through the country and taking theater roles such as the lead in Hello Dolly!
Beyond the farewell tour, Patty’s plans include ramping up her public speaking engagements and continuing as a professor. “I’m really enjoying teaching now in a collegiate setting,” says Patty, who teaches for Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma City, Okla., where she currently resides. “I’m able to help formulate and also be one of the professors of a Music Arts and Leadership degree. I get to do the teaching online and it’s fabulous. When this is all said and done in the next year and a half, I’d love to be able to go into a church for the weekend and really spend time with the musicians and the worship team and talk about the culture of worship.”
One of aspects of her farewell tour that Patty is most excited about is incorporating performances from her blended family. Between them, she and her husband have eight children ranging from 19 to 31. “We’ve always tried to champion the uniqueness in each of our kids,” she says. “Many of them have found their way to music. This year on the ‘Women of Faith’ tour, they are singing with me along with my husband, and they are excited about that so next year they are with me on tour. Plus we are going to make a little project that will feature just them.”
Premier Productions will be the promoter for Patty’s “Forever Grateful” dates and she is partnering with World Vision on the tour. She has long been associated with the global relief organization and is a big supporter of the organization’s Water4 campaign, which generates wells to supply clean water in impoverished areas.
Patty says the “Forever Grateful” tour will spotlight music from the new album, but will also be a nostalgic look back at her career. “It will be a walk down memory lane,” says the sterling soprano known for such classics as “Via Dolorosa,” “We Shall Behold Him” and “I’ve Just Seen Jesus.” “We’re going to do some medleys and mash ups, a little bit of everything.”
Patty first announced her farewell tour on the Today show Monday during a segment with friend Kathie Lee Gifford. She admits saying goodbye is going to be bittersweet. “It’s going to be like the last first day of school, when your last kid goes to school their senior year. It’s the first day of school, but it’s the last first day. It’s bittersweet. You’re excited about the growth and excited about new beginnings,” she says, “but then you reflect and are grateful for the years that have come before.
“This tour is my opportunity to tell the people ‘Thank you’ who have walked with me the last 30 years or so, and that’s why we’re calling the tour ‘Forever Grateful.’ It’s not so much about saying goodbye as it is saying ‘Thank you.’”