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Arts and Entertainment

"Songs From The Street", A Documentary About The Springfield Street Choir, Debuts At The Moxie

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(courtesy: Moxie Cinema)
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Dr. Andrew Cline, Professor of Media, Journalism and Film at Missouri State University, is also the founder of not-for-profit Carbon Trace Productions, a local film studio dedicated to educating college students on the complexity of the art of documentary filmmaking. He is the Executive Producer of a new locally-produced documentary about the Springfeld Street Choir.  It’s called “Songs From The Street,” and it’s debuting this weekend at the Moxie Cinema, 305 South Campbell Avenue, Suite 101.  Dr. Cline joined us on KSMU’s “Arts News” to talk about the project.         

Thursday night the 27th was the first showing, and there are two more showings, today at 5:00pm and Saturday afternoon at 3:00pm.  The Friday showing is sold out, and there are only a few more seats left for the Saturday showing.

Cline said he found out about the Springfield Street Choir “in kind of the earliest moments of its formation, from one of the major donors to Carbon Trace Productions, which is the nonprofit documentary studio that I'm head of. And I thought it sounded like a great idea, you know, something very natural for a documentary. We showed up at The Connecting Grounds”—the local interdenominational church where the group rehearsed—“and began filming very early on in the process.” In fact, Dr. Cline’s student film crew was there from the choir’s second rehearsal on.

The Connecting Grounds,” explained Cline, “is a church that has largely catered to the poor, homeless and people who are interested in not separating themselves from that from that lifestyle.”  He was familiar with the church’s lead pastor Christie Love “and her work in the community, specifically to help ease the pain of homelessness.”

“And it was a very interesting process to watch,” he continued, “because you could kind of see that the early members of the choir had a wide range of reasons for wanting to be there. You know, for some of them, it was a chance to get inside and sit down. And for others, there's a two dollar incentive. You could get a bus pass or literally two one dollar bills.” Of course, other participants were seriously interested in the music.  “And what was fascinating to watch as we filmed was seeing it coalesce into a community of people who really wanted to sing.”

Just as momentum for the Springfield Street Choir began to build, COVID-19 hit in March 2020, putting an already at-risk group in greater danger of illness.  With no end in sight to the pandemic and no opportunities for the choir to gather and rehearse or perform, they had to suspend their operations. “They had a very short parking lot sing-along this spring outdoors, which was really meant as a way to check in and see how everybody's doing. But no, there's been no practices, no performances. Singing, as it turns out in terms of COVID, is a bad thing to do,” said Dr. Cline.  Singers, when projecting their voices, tend to spray saliva droplets, and as Cline noted, “you could be spewing the virus.” Singing while wearing a mask doesn’t work well, although Cline said “we do have film of them doing that, at that little outdoor (sing-along) right outside The Connecting Grounds.  It was slightly hilarious”—but impractical.

Dr. Cline’s student film crew came, logically enough, from the MSU Department of Media, Journalism and Film. But he said “Carbon Trace (Productions) will work with any student filmmaker.  We have a dual non-profit mission: documentary education and humanitarian service. And so, we do not purposely narrow our focus to Missouri State. It's just that I'm a professor there, the students know what I'm doing and it's very easy.  We’ll work with any students anywhere in the world that have a story that they really want to tell. We will try to help them tell it.”

Student producer Michael Mayrand and student director Mackenzie Huffman, along with director of photography Corey O’Connor— who had just graduated from MSU—led the crew, which included about seven or eight more students.  “Three different students were involved in the editing,” Dr. Cline said, “a normal crew for what you need to produce a 70-minute film.”

The first two showings at the Moxie Cinema sold out, as we said above, and the 3:00pm Saturday showing is getting close.  Of course, Moxie’s Theater No. 1 only seats about 85 at full capacity, and they are only allowing a third of that in the door, so Cline estimated the audiences at about 30 each.  “If you go to https://www.moxiecinema.com,  you'll see the poster, click it, then click ‘buy tickets’ and off you go”—IF they are any still available. The Moxie has strongly recommended pre-ordering tickets for “Songs From the Street.” One could just walk up to the Moxie box office, but as Dr. Cline says, “you’re taking a big chance” of missing out on buying a ticket.

So where does this documentary go from here, once the debut weekend at the Moxie is over?  There will be a private screening, full red-carpet style, for the choir members themselves next Tuesday. “From there,” said Cline, “Carbon trace, along The Connecting Grounds and other interested parties, are going to try to provide access to the film mostly through outdoor venues, through the next several weeks. And so, stay tuned for that. I wish I knew more.”

If you miss the Moxie showings of “Songs From the Street” this weekend, which is likely given the limited seating opportunities—you’ll want to check periodically at https://www.carbontrace.net to see when and where additional screenings will be scheduled.