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New musical illuminates Esthers story

Biblical heroine immortalized in composer's work
by: Contributed photo, Elaini Garfield, as the biblical heroine Esther, shares a touching moment with Bryce Barclay, portraying Esther's adoptive father and cousin Mordecai in “Chosen Destiny: Esther's Journey.”

Tiffany Barclay, 27, grew up admiring such classical composers as Leonard Bernstein, who created 'West Side Story' and 'Candide' among other works.

Now Barclay, a Portland-area piano teacher, is premiering her own operetta at Mt. Hood Community College on Thursday, April 24, and Saturday, April 26. Titled 'Chosen Destiny: Esther's Journey,' the classical musical is based on the biblical heroine Esther, Queen of Persia, who saved the Jewish people from a plot to exterminate them.

In the Bible, Esther is a peasant Jewish girl chosen to become the wife of a Persian king, who is unaware of her Hebrew background. She saves the king from a plot to assassinate him after her adoptive father, and cousin, Mordecai, warns her of it.

Soon after this the king grants Haman, a prominent prince, supreme authority. All people were to bow down to Haman when he rode his horse through the streets, but Mordecai does not, noting he will only bow to God. Enraged, Haman desires Mordecai's execution as well as to kill Jews throughout the Persian empire. Esther, however, foils Haman, in part by revealing her Jewish identity to the king, at considerable risk to her own life.

'Chosen Journey' is a production of Barclay's new non-profit company, Trueheart Productions, whose goal is 'to produce new works in the arts community of Portland, Oregon to the glory of God.'

Barclay notes that Trueheart is both a family affair and a church affair. Her father, Larry, is the director of 'Chosen Destiny,' and her sister, Lorianne, 19, is the choreographer. Her brother, Bryce, 23, plays Mordecai, and her brother, Grant, 15, and sister, Deanna, 12, have minor roles.

Barclay says the Esther story has many elements that will appeal to modern theater goers, including the triumph of good over evil as well as a woman's successful attempt to defeat evil men.

'I think it's just exciting how she went against all the odds that were against her, the courage she had in going against the king when she was facing death.'

Elaini Garfield, 19, who will be making her stage debut as Esther, voiced similar sentiments about her character.

'She's someone we don't often see, someone who's being all she can be in that situation, and who uses her power for good, not evil.'

'I think she's appealing to the young girls as well,' Garfield adds. 'As a role model, she did what is hard for her. She risked her life for her people.'

Barclay herself could serve as a role model for young women, given her accomplished background. She has won numerous awards for playing in various competitions, and has performed with the Mid-Columbia Sinfonietta in Hood River as well as the Mt. Hood Pops Orchestra. Besides solo piano performance, Barclay has also accompanied string, vocal and choral performers, including Cathedral Choirs and Bella Canto Choir. In addition, she was the accompanist for Crosswalk Drama's 'The Sound of Music' staged in Milwaukie in May 2006.

Barclay's compositions have received state, regional and national awards. Her chamber piece, 'Escapades,' won First Place National for the Music Teachers National Association's High School Student Composition Competition in 1999.

Several members of the 36-member cast belong to Barclay's congregation, Household of Faith Community Church in Gresham. However, she stresses that she wants her works to appeal to the theater public, not just people of faith. 'Esther' is a move in that direction, she says.

'I think it appeals to that desire in all of us to see good triumph over evil.'

Esther's operetta

Trueheart Productions will present 'Chosen Destiny: Esther's Journey' in its world premiere at Mt. Hood Community College Theatre, 26000 S.E. Stark St, at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 24, and at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26.

Tickets range in cost from $11-14 for adults, $7-10 for children and $8-10 for seniors.

To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit www.trueheartproductions.org or call 503-897-7212.