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A notable retirement.

Byline: Emily Smith The Register-Guard

Annadon Sage of Eugene wants to get up on Thursday mornings, read the paper with her coffee and relax.

For 17 years, Thursday mornings haven't allowed for much relaxing. That's the day she has led practice for the Sharps and Flats, a senior citizen chorus from the Willamalane Adult Activity Center in Springfield.

Sage is stepping down after 17 years as director of the 30-member chorus, which regularly performs in nursing homes and retirement facilities in Eugene and Springfield.

Her little pocket calendar provides the evidence that week after week, month after month and year after year, nearly every day of Sage's week has been filled with appointments - mostly musical engagements.

"Maybe that's what's kept me going," she remarked.

She stumbled into the directing gig when she showed up at a singing session at the Willamalane center and was asked to serve as director.

"It was a little frightening at first because I'd never directed before," she said.

Sage played piano throughout her childhood and since has played and sung at church. While she never went pro, her early music education instilled in her a passion for music.

"I played piano quite well in 12th grade and my teacher wanted me to become a concert pianist," she said. "But I fell in love, so that took care of that."

Sage doesn't regret giving up any career that might have been, though. Her life has ended up filled with music anyway.

Not long after she started directing, Sage whipped the Sharps and Flats into shape, stepping up the number of sing-alongs and adding practices to boot.

And because "you need a treat after you sing," Sage instigated the group's tradition of stopping at a Dairy Queen or Shari's after shows. After practices, the group goes to lunch, where restaurants often ask them to perform on the spot.

Twenty-five Sharps and Flats members have died during her 17 years with the group, Sage said. But the close-knit group remains a rewarding part of members' lives, as evidenced by the man who sang with the chorus until his death at age 101.

"They all thrive on it," she said.

The median age in the group is somewhere between 70 and 80, but the range extends from about 60 to 90.

Daune Raddatz, piano accompanist for the Sharps and Flats, said Sage's talents were a perfect fit for the group.

"It's a whole combination of things with her personality, diligence and willingness to try almost anything," she said. "It just peps people up and gives them the confidence to try something they've never tried before. You'd just be amazed to see how she can draw someone out for a solo.

"She just has a marvelous touch with people. She's just one of a kind, I really admire her."

Sage enjoys people. But maybe even more so, she enjoys spreading her positive outlook. And she might throw in a bit of wisdom while she's at it.

"I'm a bit of a sermonizer," she said. "Not a religious sermonizer, but I give sermons about life."

If ever a Sharps and Flats member should utter a complaint, Sage interrupts the grumbles with little lectures on letting go and getting along.

"Truly," she said, "we forget in our daily lives that we need a little more compassion and understanding."

Patients with Alzheimer's have been some of Sage's favorite audiences.

Mary Lee Helm, a Sharps and Flats singer, said elderly listeners with Alzheimer's respond to the chorus in a special way. She recalls the time when a patient stood up and told the chorus, "I have Alzheimer's, but when you come and sing, it makes me remember."

Raddatz, too, loves that Sharps and Flats becomes a part of listeners' lives. She and Sage agree that especially with Alzheimer's patients, it's apparent in their faces and voices that the choir lends color and comfort to their world.

"All you do is hold one of those little hands and get a hug and oh my gosh, it just makes your day," Raddatz said. "All I can say is it's just very humbling. I feel very honored that I could be a part of it."

At 76, Sage said her seemingly boundless energy is starting to diminish.

Now is the time, she said, to move on and attend to the list of activities she hasn't had much time for with her Sharps and Flats commitments. Among them is becoming a hospice volunteer. In her absence, the choir will seek a new director.

As she reflects on her tenure with the Sharps and Flats, Sage said the group is proof that "just because you're old, it doesn't mean you have to stop having fun or joy."

ANNADON SAGE

Born: May 28, 1933, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Claim to fame: Director for 17 years of the volunteer senior choir Sharps and Flats, which performs in Eugene and Springfield nursing homes and retirement centers

Oregon history: Moved here after marriage in 1954 to a man who said the state was "the closest place to heaven he knew;" has lived in her Santa Clara area home for 47 years

Family: Two grown sons and two grown daughters

Career: Worked as a manager cook for Bethel School District

Favorite music: Classical, easy listening, opera, big band and "old country classics" such as Johnny Cash

Hobbies: Reading, square-dancing and cooking

Favorite reading: Current events, history and "good romantic novels"
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Title Annotation:City/Region; Longtime director of the Sharps and Flats singers steps down
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 29, 2009
Words:906
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