Rock opera touts teen’s true story

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    By JAMES SPEAR

    Rock band, Grain, will set the record straight about a boy who ended his life more than 25 years ago. Grain, in conjunction with the theater and music departments at BYU will perform a moving 36-song rock opera this week in the Nelke theater.

    Alden Barrett died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, but he left behind a journal filled with life, poems and dreams. With only good intentions, Alden’s mother, Marcella, loaned her sons journal to author Beatrice Sparks.

    Sparks used several of Alden’s journal entries when she wrote a book about a boy’s cult-filled life ending in suicide.

    When the book, “Jay’s Journal” was published, the local community immediately made the connection between the real person, Alden, and the fictional character, Jay.

    Scott Barrett, Alden’s younger brother, described on his homepage, (http:www.fiber.net/users/jeffglo/wws/barratt0.htm) the community’s reaction when “Jay’s Journal” was published.

    “Rumors spread like wildfire,” he wrote. “It was like an atomic bomb went off and our family was at ground zero.”

    Scott said that of the 67 entries in Alden’s journal, Sparks only used 21. And the rest came from somewhere else.

    Nowhere in Alden’s real journal were satanic practices of any kind mentioned, Scott said.

    Several years ago, members of Grain became acquainted with Alden’s family. Scott even loaned Alden’s journal to the band for a time.

    Jack Donaldson, singer and acoustic guitarist for Grain, was impressed immediately with Alden’s poetry.

    Grain developed songs from Alden’s words. The musical story grew as the band mixed impressions with their own experiences.

    “When we wrote these songs they were about Alden, but they’re also about everyone,” Donaldson said. “The inspiration came from our own lives.”

    Six months ago Grain put all 36 songs about Alden together. The band was amazed. From chord progressions to lyrics the songs fit together perfectly.

    Last March Grain performed, “A Place in The Sun,” in its entirety at UVSC. The response was overwhelming.

    Alden’s sister attended the performance at UVSC and was impressed.

    “It’s the first time she faced the truth,” Donaldson said.

    “There was a really good feeling after the show,” said Winston Lee, Grain’s keyboardist.

    Alisha Christiansen, a graduate student in theater, was in the audience that night.

    “I was very moved by it and saw the potential,” Christiansen said. “Without any theater training they wrote this amazingly dramatic piece.”

    Christiansen approached Grain with the idea of adding theater concepts and dance to portray the story.

    “We were really scared of the word ‘dance’ at first,” Donaldson said.

    The combination worked, however.

    A twelve-member cast, directed by Christiansen and choreographed by Megan Sanborn, complements the story through dance, acting and movement

    Tim Threlfall, faculty member in the theater department summed up the performance in his notes: A Place in The Sun is, “…part rock concert, part concept show, part rock video, part modern dance and part story theater.”

    Grain’s goal in composing and performing “A Place in The Sun,” is to let the truth about Alden Barrett be known. But even more importantly, the opera focuses on healing, understanding and the prevention of such a tragic end.

    Shane Fillmore, vocalist and drummer for Grain, spoke about the UVSC performance.

    The audience were emotionally moved, Fillmore said. I think a lot of people thought for the first time how depression can affect people in different degrees.

    “It also helps older people understand younger people,” said Matt Western, Grain’s bassist. “And it helps them be more sympathetic.”

    “A Place in the Sun” will be performed tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Nelke Theater. Ticket information is available by calling the Fine Arts Center Box Office at 378-4322, extension ‘0’. Box office hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $6 for general admission.

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