Phoenix Collective Quartet hero shot
Phoenix Collective are creating their digital film and performance piece Different Trains, Reich on the back of Director Dan Russell (second from left) successfully applying for a $10,000 Australia Council for the Arts grant. Image supplied.

In the space of a week back in March, The Phoenix Collective’s 2020 season was thrown into a state of jeopardy, as was the case for many in the arts and entertainment industries.

All performance venues had closed for the foreseeable future, which forced the quartet to weigh up their options.

In response to the tight situation they found themselves in, The Phoenix Collective launched a plan to continue delivering their music to their supporters in an innovative fashion, by combining their music with film for the first time, and sharing it online.

This Sunday 7 June at 1pm, The Phoenix Collective will release the first of their Digital Sessions: Different Trains, Reich, a film and performance which will be presented as a digital event and fundraiser.

Reich’s Different Trains is a contemporary classical work reflecting on train travel during the 1940s in America and Europe, and makes use of pre-recorded train sounds, warning signals and actual voice recordings of train conductors and Holocaust survivors.

After originally planning to record the work separately, recently relaxed COVID-19 restrictions will allow Phoenix Collective to band together and record together in the same space, albeit socially distanced.

Phoenix Collective’s Canberra-based director and violinist, Dan Russell, told Canberra Weekly the reason he chose to feature Different Trains in this film is because it would have worked if everyone was forced to record their individual parts separately.

“With Different Trains you have to play to a track, so that’s fixed, which would have worked if we had all recorded our individual parts,” he said. “That would have involved everyone in the Chamber playing along to a guide track, with the final product editing all of that together … which is all quite strict and doesn’t allow for much flexibility.

“At least we’re now able to get together, albeit a metre and a half apart; if you’re in a decent room it doesn’t matter.”

Their recording will then soundtrack a film being specially created for the event by Sydney videographer Sina S. of VDO SYMPTOMS.

The film will utilise holocaust footage from WWII, as well as some old-time locomotives set in-synch with the work.

Russell described the film as a “beautifully constructed image-centric work to tie in with the soundtrack”.

“I’m pretty excited about it, I’ve seen bits of video on its own and I know what the music’s like, but I can’t wait to see it all tied together.”

The opportunity to create this work has come about on the back of Russell successfully applying for a $10,000 Australia Council for the Arts grant.

“I feel lucky, thankful and honoured to receive that grant.

“I’ve not applied for many in my time, in fact it’s only due to this present situation that I lodged my first application,” he said.

The grant runs for the entire year and will see Phoenix Collective produce three events like this.

Russell said the next event might involve the Collective collaborating with a pianist, while the final one will be a folk music offering “to the human spirit”.

With the majority of the $10,000 in grant money going toward purchasing high quality video and audio recording equipment, Russell estimated paying the musicians and other artists involved what they’re worth would cost approximately $30,000.

“I’m hoping that I will be able to give to the artists and musicians in this project basically what they’re worth, and the way to do that is fundraising at this stage.”

The $20 tickets, which provide access to the screening of Different Trains, will contribute toward that, however, those looking to support Phoenix Collective are also able to make tax deductible donations to the project via the Australian Cultural Fund here.

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