Friday, February 20, 2009

Shasta County Landmark, No. 377

This song --with a chorus mostly in Hebrew -- is probably not destined to make its way to the country music charts, but some songs just beg to be written.

Alav Hashalom tells a bit of the story of California State Landmark No. 377 - The Pioneer Baby's Grave on Highway 299, near the historic town of Old Shasta.

From the web site: California State Historical Landmarks in Shasta County:

"NO. 377 PIONEER BABY'S GRAVE - Charles, infant son of George and Helena Cohn Brownstein of Red Bluff, died December 14, 1864. He was buried near land established by the Shasta Hebrew Congregation as a Jewish cemetery in 1857... Since there was no Jewish burial ground in Red Bluff, Charles' parents made the arduous journey to Shasta to lay their baby to rest. Concern for the fate of the grave led to the rerouting of Highway 299 in 1923."

I had driven past the marker many times, but I didn't know the story until I read about it in Doni Greenberg's column in the Redding Record Searchlight. The story haunted me, and when that happens, I write.

The song I began writing was called "Rest in Peace," but it never came together in a way that felt comfortable to me, so I set it aside. A couple of years later I came back to it, and the song I finished was "Alav Hashalom" -- Hebrew for "may he rest in peace."

Our daughter Annie plays fiddle on this one, it's on The Shadow of Shasta CD.

Alav Hashalom

music and lyrics © Erin Coombs Friedman

Cruel cold wind burns my face
Grief it burns my soul
On the wretched road to the holy place
Where I’ll let my baby go

Alav Hashalom
Cradled with his brethren
Alav Hashalom
In the arms of heaven
Alav Hashalom -- Alav Hashalom

I’ll not forsake my faith
Or lay my burden down
A mother’s love reveals its strength
On the road to Shasta town

I’ll lay my face upon his grave
Unto the earth reborn
Scarred and stained with river clay
I’ll journey evermore

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