Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: sing your complaints

sing your complaints

The Helsinki Complaints Choir at the stairs of the Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki.
Photo taken from the complaints choirs website

The first time I heard of complaints choirs was over three years ago and later blogged about how amusing they were to me.

A few days ago, I read on a Finnish culture blog about an article in The New York Times by Phyllis Korkki (the last name sounds Finnish): Turning Complaints Into Art. Here's a snippet:

The idea started in Finland, where there is a word for people who complain simultaneously, valituskuoro, which translates as complaints choir. About six years ago Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen and his wife, Tellervo Kalleinen, both visual artists living in Helsinki, began discussing the possibility of turning this metaphorical concept into something quite literal. People spend so much energy complaining, they reasoned, so why not harness all that energy into something positive?

In 2005, with help from arts-related organizations in England and Finland, the two organized their first complaints choir, in Birmingham, England.

The Tokyo choir, which performed last month, is the eighth that the couple have worked with. But others have formed choirs in other cities, and, Mr. Kochta-Kalleinen said, more than 60 performances have occurred worldwide -- from Melbourne to Singapore to Philadelphia to Florence.

This is all a surprise to me! The interview of the Finnish artists who started it all was interesting and I enjoyed hearing that Finnish accent!. There's even a website for complaints choirs worldwide along with videos of their performances that I'm slowly going through, looking and listening and smiling! I hope you will too.


As soon as I can get to a computer, I will check out the links. My little Nokia doesn't have enough memory. Could I turn that complaint into a musical composition? It's a thought! The morning water-cooler whinge at the office is one of the most unpleasant parts of my workday. Singing would help immensely.

I love this! Allowing space for a good venting now and then is important for one's emotional health - especially when people who "never complain" are held up in such high esteem and those who do complain are called "whiners". Of course, there's a time and place... Creative complaint is the best!

That was surprisingly delightful. Thank you for sharing this odd and amusing past-time.

What a wonderful idea. Did you ever notice that rap music (at least in its original form) was indeed complaint set to music. There's nothing like grumpiness you can dance to.

R, you could start an office complaints choir!

Leslee, I like the sound of "creative complaint"!

Susan (from Canada) - welcome! Glad you enjoyed this.

Susan (from US) - you're right! I'd forgotten that, and it is another art form though usually done by individuals or small groups.

Ahh, Helsinki Complaints Choir: two of my Christmas rituals are to relisten to that beautiful bitching by the HCC, and Weird Al Yankovick's "eBay".

I guess there aren't too many requests for encores.

I came back to listen to more of them this morning. It's such a good idea I wish it were more prevalent everywhere.. just the thing to get people who otherwise aren't interested in public affairs to stop and listen and maybe even join in.

Black Pete, these are indeed a good antidote to too many Christmas carols!

BB, maybe not but there sure are a lot of smiles! Some of the choirs are actually very good.

Susan, it seems to be a growing phenomenon so others are agreeing with what you say.