Patti Craig found herself at loose ends this last Tuesday morning. Normally, she would be rehearsing with the Tune-agers at that time, but has just retired from the group, which she has been with for 17 years, 11 of them as the group’s leader.
“I was up so early and got so much done around the house,” said Craig. “It’s just unbelievable.
Craig led the seniors’ choir and orchestra for the final time last Sunday, returning to the place where it all began for her almost two decades ago. The concert was held in the sanctuary of the Penticton United Church, which is where she auditioned for the Tune-agers’ first leader, Helene Scott.
That was in 1994 and Craig was accepted into the group, also performing as a soloist. Not long after, the group went on a Caribbean cruise, where they were part of the entertainment. Craig was entranced by the fun and the possibilities and decided to stick with the group.
“Within a matter of a year or two, I got a knock on my door on a Sunday afternoon,” said Craig. Outside were Helene and a couple of the original members of the Tune-agers, who had dropped by to ask Craig to begin studying with Scott, with the intention of taking over as the leader.
“I studied with her for two and a half years,” said Craig, who also spent a summer studying with Leonard Camplin, who was then the music director of the Okanagan Symphony.
Then one morning, the day the Tune-agers were to embark on a tour, Craig got a phone call from Scott at 5 a.m. At that time, Scott had been leading the Tune-agers for three decades.
“She wasn’t well and she said, ‘You’re it,’” Craig said. “That was it, there was no stopping me after that.”
Pixie Marriott, who has been with the Tune-agers since 1992, said Craig has developed over the years she led the group.
“She has really grown in the last few years. When she started I think it was really daunting for her to actually do an orchestra and choir,” said Marriott. “She has done extremely well. It is a very fun group, we really do have a lot of laughs and a lot of fun.”
Craig agrees it is fun, but said she likes to push the group as well.
“I do challenge them and they have been doing quite a bit more difficult stuff … there are some tremendously talented people in there,” she said, adding that her final concert was no exception.
“They gave it 110 per cent. Of course the acoustics in the United Church are great anyways and the orchestra played magnificently,” Craig said. She was surprised though, not by the orchestra, but by how she well she handled the emotional event.
“I thought it would be very emotional and it was to a certain extent, but the fact that I belong to that church and I sing in that sanctuary all the time. I was used to the surroundings,” she said, adding that it might be harder to keep her emotions in check for the farewell dinner.
“They are more like my extended family. It’s not just a music group, it is a support group. There are many ladies there that are alone, and men … it’s a place that they can go and feel safe and do something they love.”
Gerald Nadeau, who also leads the Penticton Concert Band, will be taking over as leader of the Tune-agers when they start their next season in September.