Let me pour you a shot of a Finnish vodka on me so I can tell you the tale of these Chiors…
The story as it’s told now is that on a winter’s day walk, Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen came up with the concept of a Complaints Choir, as in the Finnish vocabulary there is an expression valitus kuoro. It means ‘complaints choir’ in English and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously in a sort of spontaneous crowd sourcing. Our two artists thought that ‘Wouldn’t it be fantastic to take this expression literally and organise a real Complaints Choir!’
They then set about collecting the pet complaints, peeves, and pleas of the people of Helsinki. They used these to write the lyrics and chose musician Esko Grundström to compose the music. The resulting video is a charming look at life among the Keskiluokka (middle class) of their city. What I find appealing is that the complaints are, for the most part, universal to any similar group across Europe and North America. Occasionally local traditions creep in to all of the Complaints Choirs, i.e., there are two different complaints about saunas here. One of the complaints mentioned in this version was the fact that the Finns were always beaten by the Swedes in the Eurovision Song Contest. A few months later, Finland won the contest for the first time, with Sweden coming fifth.
The meme of a complaints choir soon spread to other cities and indeed five years later there is now additional Complaints Choirs have happened in Bodø (Norway), Poikkilaakso primary school (Helsinki, Finland), Budapest, Chicago, Juneau (Alaska), Gabriola Island (Canada), Melbourne, Jerusalem, Singapore, Breslau (Poland), Hong Kong, Philadelphia, Enschede in The Netherlands (as part of its international Grenswerk art festival), and Tokyo.