Complaining is raised to an art form by choir



“Comedians like to joke about rape.

Toilet paper wide as ticker tape.

I was thinner when I smoked a pack a day.

Free address labels, they misspelled my name.

—Excerpt from “Does Anybody Really Care,” by the Youngstown Complaints Choir

The complaints of Youngstowners have been gathered up, whittled down, and put to music.

Next, they will be performed by the Youngstown Complaints Choir as an original composition titled “Does Anybody Really Care.”

The debut will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Bliss Hall at Youngstown State University.

The YCC is part of Youngstown’s contribution to the Living As Form exhibition at the McDonough Museum of Art.

The project was led by Kelly Bancroft and involves 11 others who went through 30 pages of random complaints gathered on a Facebook page. The lyrics were boiled down to eliminate redundancies, then condensed and divided into themes — politics, bad drivers, etc. — for the various verses. It was then put to a melody created by 15-year-old singer-songwriter Rayne Blakeman.

“The main challenge for us in crafting together 30 pages of random complaints into something cohesive was to try to represent as many voices and perspectives as we could,” said Bancroft, who is a poet and instructor at Youngstown State University.

“Occasionally, we switched the syntax so that the rhyme worked better, but for the most part, we tried to keep the complaints in their original forms,” she said.

The results range from funny to poignant — but always sincere:

“The guy in front of me always pays in pennies.

You’re not complete if you don’t have babies.

Dial-up Internet connection.

Only two parties in this damn election.”

After the 10-minute song’s debut Friday at Bliss Hall, a reception will take place at the adjacent McDonough Museum. The YCC is part of a global movement of complaints choirs, and a compilation film of other choirs will be shown at the reception.

Friday’s performance also will be videotaped so that it may become part of the permanent and ever-growing collection of performance art in the Living As Form traveling exhibition.

The McDonough Museum co-organized and sponsored the Youngstown Living as Form projects, including the complaints choir.

Bancroft stressed that the choir is not a typical one.

“We don’t have a conductor, and most of us don’t even read music,” she said. “We’re not trained or even experienced singers necessarily, and I believe that’s part of the charm. The only criteria for joining was an interest in the project and the courage to get up there and sing.”

A portion of the song is devoted to complaints about Youngstown. “I think this section of the song, which is chanted and shouted in a more serious tone, reflects what many residents of Youngstown think but may not be saying,” said Bancroft.

In addition to Bancroft and Blakeman, who will play ukelele, the other members of the choir are Catherine Cala, Colleen Clayton Dippolito, Mary Dippolito, Lindsay Clifton, Skye Hilde-brand, Randy Maas, Robyn Maas, Tracy McQuillan, Lynn Cardwell (cellist) and Steven Reese (guitarist).

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