The Herald Bulletin

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February 19, 2013

Jim Bailey: More than a concert as daughter lives out dream of sorts

During her growing-up years, our oldest daughter Rachel Nealeigh dreamed of singing backup for Sandi Patty. Recently she had the opportunity to live out that dream — right in her home church.

Sandi Patty and Friends packed out Springdale Nazarene Church in suburban Cincinnati as the church’s stellar choir, which includes Rachel and husband Rob, provided backup vocals on several numbers.

Rachel had met Sandi years before when the award-winning nationally known singer made Anderson her home. In fact they played on the same church volleyball team, on which Rachel was player-coach. And she had even sung behind Sandi once in college when Patty fronted the Anderson University Chorale in a campus program.

The gregarious Sandi and husband Don Peslis moved to Oklahoma City several years ago. She probably has met thousands of people over years of singing and public appearances. But even after 20-some years she immediately recognized Rachel, dishing out hugs to her and Rob during the pre-concert sound check.

The concert was typically well-received as Patty, Larnell Harris and Wayne Watson took turns performing their big numbers. Sandi even winged the program in spots, keeping two piano players on their toes trying to tie it all together.

As the event came to a close, fans intent on getting autographs and pictures started drifting into the backstage room where she was decompressing. Rob checked out the scene and learned she was ridding her aching feet of her platform heels and heading for the roomier atrium for a more relaxed meet and greet before boarding their tour bus for a trip to Nashville, Tenn., where another concert was scheduled the next night at the famous Christ Church, where Sandi’s daughter, Jennifer Helvering, is the worship leader.

Eventually we got to the front of the line, where Rachel and Rob got another hug. Meeting their son Cameron, she told him, “I used to play volleyball with your mother. She’s gooood!” At that point she spotted Bonnie and me and hopped off her stool to greet us.

“Jim, do you know everybody?” Rob quipped later. Well, after all, I have done a few interviews with Sandi over the years, and we went to the same church for a period of time as well.

Rob’s mother, Janet Nealeigh, brought her iPad camera to get a picture of the whole mob of us, so Sandi designated friend Andrew Lyon to take the picture. Hearing the name, it was obvious from a glance he’s the son of Jim Lyon, pastor of Anderson’s Madison Park Church of God.

All in a day’s work for everyone, I suppose. But a night Rachel will remember for a while. And others, too. For instance, the church’s pastor Darrell Blank, offering a brief prayer during the sound check, asked music director Scott Kelly if he had any specific requests. “You’d better pray for me,” Kelly replied. “I’ve been coveting that sound system.”

Jim Bailey’s column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by e-mail at jameshenrybailey@earthlink.net.

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