considering complaining about choirs about complaining

I should, of course, be meeting a deadline. Actually, I should be chasing two deadlines that whooshed by thanks to a nifty infection that put me on the loo or flat on my back exhausted from walking to the loo and explosively emptying my guts for half-a-week.

Which means the following quick e-mail from a friend was the perfect distraction:

This is not just any belly-aching, whining, moaning and/or griping.

No. This is public belly-aching, whining, moaning and/or griping sung in harmony to a musical accompaniment with a rap solo!

The Complaints Choir of Birmingham.

But that’s only 10 minutes or so of non-productive time. So let’s get serious.

It turns out the whole idea of a Complaints Choir comes to us thanks to Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen. They’ve done interesting things apart. And they’ve done interesting things together.

And, walking together one winter’s day in Helsinki, the pair ended up discussing

the possibility of transforming the huge energy people put into complaining into something else.

As it happens, there is a Finnish expression: “Valituskuoro”.

It means “Complaints Choir” and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen thought: “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to take this expression literally and organise a real Complaints Choir!”

The Springhill Institute in Birmingham, England, took the idea and ran with it. Happily, others have followed their example.

So we’ve now got the Helsinki Complaints Choir; the Hamburg Complaints Choir; the St Petersburg Complaints Choir and several others, all dutifully noted on the Complaints Choir web-site.

FWIW, I’m torn between the Helsinki and St Petersburg choirs as my personal favourite.

Even better, so far as Gilles Roy is concerned, all this apparently pointless effort is more than cranky kvetching:

in the context of a group song, complaining appears to be many things, not just the whining wheedle of the quietly desperate, living their misery out in isolation. Rather we find here a chockfull of insight, small-mindedness, fatigue, expressions of injustice, powerlessness, etc. from the individual voices heard through the multitude, both in solo and unison.

Maybe we should get a few Complaints Choirs going here in Oz? If nothing else, it might make the Federal Election coming before the end of 2007 more interesting (or interesting at all, given the way elections are played out these days).

After all, if it doesn’t get us anywhere, we can always complain to Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen about the whole exercise being a waste of our valuable time.

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