Different Trains

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In partnership with Sound Intermedia, Liverpool Biennial, Southbank Centre and Culture Liverpool Metal staged a site-specific performance of Different Trains at Edge Hill station, composed by Steve Reich, performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra, and accompanied by a film in response to the piece by Bill Morrison. Guitarist Mats Bergstrom also performed Reich’s minimalist classic Electric Counterpoint, and the event was livestreamed worldwide by Boiler Room.

Different Trains (1988), for string quartet and tape, was inspired by the journeys Reich made between New York and Los Angeles during World War II and that, had he lived in Europe, he may have been forced to travel in Holocaust trains instead. The performance on the 29th September took place just days before Steve Reich’s 80th birthday, in the presence of the composer on the bank of Edge Hill Station, one of the oldest active passenger stations in the world.

In September 1830 passengers were carried by train between two cities for the first time ever, travelling from Liverpool to Manchester via Edge Hill Station. This performance encouraged audiences to return to this site to reflect upon the extraordinary social, political and economic consequences of that moment, and in particular the role of the railways during World War II.

A large outdoor section of Edge Hill railway station had fallen into disrepair; formerly the carriage ramp, where the first ever train passengers would arrive at the station by horse and carriage to catch their trains. The space had been unused for around 10 years before the project. The significance of this space within the global human story of train travel cannot be overstated.

Through this event Metal revived this space as a new venue for further world quality events that tell this story to a vast audience to bring back some of its proud status and belief that the area so richly deserves, to the benefit of the local area, Liverpool and the North West; further reinforcing its image as a richer and more attractive place in which to live and work. This project, like Metal’s wider work in these locations, engaged hundreds of local residents as audience and participants, with the intention of defining an alternative narrative for the area based on its significant heritage rather than its disadvantage, a heritage that is linked to the venue and origins of the story presented by Reich’s piece.

As part of the Different Trains project Director of Metal Liverpool Shaun Curtis hosted a public conversation with Steve Reich. The performance was also crowdfunded via Kickstarter, which included a limited number of Different Trains music scores signed by Steve Reich.

An exuberant, sometimes dark blend of music and film — this was a superb performance of one of Steve Reich’s most poignant works.

Richard Morrison - The Times

It was the cultural highlight of my year for sure. Extraordinary event, genius collaboration and something I hope can somehow happen again (though wonder where else could be as poignantly appropriate as Edge Hill) 

Vanessa Reed – Executive Director PRS for Music Foundation

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