Sunday, May 16, 2010

'Complaints Choirs' from Helsinki, Chicago, Russia and all over

Update to my Finnish "Complaints Choir" blog post in September ... in Finnish slang, a Valituskuoro (translated "Complaints Choir") is a gripe session or a "pity party," i.e. what you get when everybody starts complaining at the same time, and a couple of Finnish art students in England decided to see what would happen if they did it with a real choir.

Turns out there was also one in Chicago a couple of years ago.

Chicago's was very much like the original, with support from the Arts Council of Finland as well as local organizations like the Chicago Art Institute and the Chicago Humanities Festival, but with laments about drunken Cubs and Cardinals fans, a Chicago el train incorporated into the melodic structure and the most gorgeous polyphonic riff on the Chicago Transit Authority's acronym I've ever heard ...

The first ones were at Springhill Institute of Birmingham, England, and in Helsinki. I found out about it on a Scandinavian music blog/radio show from Minnesota that gave the back story and a YouTube Clip of the choir in Helsinki. Here it is:

It's a worldwide phenomenon. There's a Web site at ... with background, videos and more ... including such very different venues as Germany, Milan, Jerusalem, Singapore, Penn State, Juneau, Alaska, and St. Petersburg ... a remarkable performance with vague echoes of the old Russian Orthodox liturgy, an amazing, almost funky, syncopated accordion backing the choir and location shots along the Neva, at Metro stops and several of the city's fine old buildings. Not to mention lyrics (translated in subtitles) like:
... why did you, Peter, miraculous builder,
build our city in such pestilent climate
amidst mosquitos?
and this reference - albeit with a dying, postmodernist fall - to a romantic gesture by late Romantic poet:
... I'd send her a rose in a wineglass like Blok,
but you don't get cheap wine anymore.
Here, for the sake of comparison, is the original by Alexander Aleksandrovich Blok:
I'll never forget (did it happen, or not,
That evening): the sunset's fire
Consumed and split the pale sky,
And streetlamps flared against the yellow sunset.

I sat by the window in a crowded room.
Distant bows were singing of love.
I sent you a black rose in a goblet
Of champagne, golden as the sky.
[From "In a Restaurant"]. Here's the St. Petersburg production:


Frank Mauceri said...

Complaints Choir doc film screening near you or on DVD on Smog Veil Records, out in August or September!

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