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Giant task

Music | Rock opera puts to song an Oscar Wilde tale

Issue: "NextGen worship," July 26, 2008

Years before his deathbed acceptance into the Catholic Church, Oscar Wilde published "The Selfish Giant," a tale in which a giant learns the meaning of "suffer the little children" from a child who turns out to be Christ Himself. Now Jim and Dee Patton, who as members of the Agape Force wrote songs for the popular Christian children's albums Music Machine, Bullfrogs and Butterflies, and Nathaniel the Grublet, have turned Wilde's tale into a rock opera. "We have wanted to do this project since the 1970s," Dee told WORLD. "It was a challenge to do a kid's story but not a kid's album."

Or, to put it another way, how do you transform a 1,650-word story that reads light as air into a 29-song musical drama that plays out over 69 minutes? Credited to the Patton family band Bongo and the Point, The Selfish Giant solves part of the problem by keeping the songs short and by telling the story through the voices of a varied cast of characters (the Giant, Spring, Mr. Frost, Mrs. Snow, Hail, and others).

It also employs a mixture of pop-music styles-sometimes within the same song. "Oh, How Happy We Are Here," for instance, begins with Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies then morphs into a folk waltz. Meanwhile, fans of operatic rock will appreciate the guitar solo of the Alan Parsons Project's Ian Bairnson on "Tearing Down the Wall" and the musical nod to The Who's "Happy Jack" in "Music Is in the Air."

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"Because it's a fairy tale," Dee said, "I think it disarms some of the defenses people might put up if they thought they were being preached at." And because the story is Wilde's, his many admirers can amuse themselves debating what Wilde himself would've made of the Pattons' imaginative interpretation.

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