Alialujah Choir came about when three well-known members of Portland, Oregon’s notable music scene took time away from the comforts and constraints of their primary bands (Weinland, Norfolk & Western, M.Ward) to focus on the natural beauty they found when singing songs from their more personal artistic quivers.
The songs immerse the singers as their voices entwine with one another and then expand. Sparse arrangements create an open bed for two, three, and four part vocal harmony, while instrumentation that ranges from a guitar to an upright piano to a Theremin and a marching drum, allow Alialujah Choir to sing their stories in ethereal allure. The latest album, entitled “Big Picture Show” showcases fuller arrangements than the previous self-titled album, expanding the band’s sound that reflects the energy and grandiosity of their live performances.
Paradoxically, this story then began where most stories would end – in a cemetery. It was a benefit album for the preservation of Portland’s oldest burial ground, The Lone Fir Cemetery. The vibrant and heartfelt song, “A House, A Home” (a historical fiction piece about the hidden and forbidden relationship of two mental health patients) reached the ears of a local filmmaker, who became haunted with its suggestions of an underground love story. In stunning fashion, he put the song’s ghosts on screen. Collaborating with the band to visualize the tale, “A House, A Home” evolved into a multi-award winning short film.
Soon, a full-length album emerged. What began as friends around a piano gradually became the sprawling canvas for an ongoing collective art project. Various member projects include a book of short stories with musical scores, the release of a graphic novel, a grant funded dance project with a live score, and a stop motion film about a love between two nautical lemurs. On the road a trail of video captures unique incidents, like a spontaneous performance in an abandoned blueberry stand (see the band’s YouTube channel), while a shared love of photography often catches the band’s most creative moments, forever trapping them in amber.
With a somewhat revolving enlistment of local luminaries, from bands like Blind Pilot and Neko Case, Alialujah Choir boasts a versatility which reflects the majestic sounds of the new album while preserving the intimate sensibilities the band was founded upon.