written by Laurel Brauns
The Alialujah Choir was born in graveyard. The Lone Fir Cemetery in SE Portland, to be exact. In 2008, Kate Sokoloff had an idea to raise money for the endangered property, and commissioned a compilation of songs by some of Portland’s most well-known folk artists called (D)early Departed. She invited Weinland’s front man and singer-songwriter, Adam Shearer to contribute. Shearer, a long-time mental health professional, was drawn to the real-life story of Dr. J. C. Hawthorne, who is buried at Lone Pine along with many of his patients.
Shearer wrote the song “A House, A Home,” about two lovers in Hawthorne’s hospital who were forbidden to be alone together, and thus could only be united at death. He called upon long-time collaborator Adam Selzer for songwriting and arrangement help (Type Foundry Studio and Norfolk and Western) and came up with a track rich with head-tingling harmonies and sparse arrangements.
Listening back to their recording, the two musicians agreed they’d stumbled upon a sound worth pursuing. Weinland member Alia Farah was invited to the table to contribute piano, a third (and female) harmony and her own songs that fit the project.
But there had to be rules. All three members work as professional musicians and juggle full-time jobs in the creative industry. This project would be a break from all that, and a way for three friends to hang out and collectively find their way back to the simplicity and joy of just singing together and playing only the instruments they had at an arm’s length.
Four years later, with a dozen starts and stops, the group released their self-titled debut to a full house at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland just a few weeks ago. Dozens of music fans and friends gushed via newfeeds that it was the best show of the year to date. Indeed, one of the highlights of the night came before the show even started, with a special debut screening.
Filmmaker Mark Smith was inspired to produce a video for the song “A House, A Home,” when he heard it while on tour with Weinland, capturing footage for a documentary about the band. He teamed up with director Daniel Fickle (see Denmark) and created a haunting second chapter to the lives of Shearer’s star-crossed lovers.
In Smith’s version, the story begins underground, inside the coffins of the young lovers, and ends… Well, watch here to watch to find out…