Youngstown Complaints Choir gripes In harmony

Youngstown Complaints Choir asks, ‘Does anybody really care?’

By Ashley Luthern


Kelly Ban croft has heard a lot of complaints lately.

But she expected that when she began coordinating the Youngstown Complaints Choir, which gave its final public performance Saturday at the Ward Bakery Building during the Artists of the Mahoning Commons and Friends Open Studio and Art Sale.

The Complaints Choir is an international project founded in 2005 by Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen.

The choirs encourage local people to gather complaints and turn them into musical pieces.

“This has been done all over the world. The complaints, whether they’re from Africa or Korea, are pretty similar: They’re about our bodies, freedom and money,” Bancroft said.

The Youngstown Complaints Choir’s completed work is titled “Does Anybody Really Care” and features snippets ranging from small annoyances to serious social commentary. A stanza from the first verse:

“People put clothing on cats, take pictures with their phone.

People are mean to children, especially their own.

It’s so hard to lose weight but so easy to put on.

I hate that I now understand youth is wasted on the young.”

The choir’s Saturday performance was filmed and will become a permanent part of the traveling “Living As Form [The Nomadic Version]” exhibition. Living as Form was on display at the McDonough Museum of Art from Sept. 14 until Nov. 9.

Bancroft said the choir asked for complaints on a Facebook page and the results filled 30 single-spaced typed pages. Rayne Blakeman, 15, of Youngs-town, came up with the melody.

“I read the words, and it just popped into my head,” Blakeman said. “I write my own music, but hadn’t written anything like this.”

Blakeman was one of several choir members who played instruments and strummed a ukulele. She was joined by Lynn Cardwell and Steven Reese, who played cello and guitar, respectively.

“I heard about the movement in the spring at the McDonough and it sounded like a neat idea,” Cardwell said. “I brought my cello one night, and it just evolved.”

Other choir members are Catherine Cala, Lindsay Clifton, Colleen Clayton Dippolito, Mary Dippolito, Skye Hildebrand, Randy Maas, Robyn Maas and Tracy McQuillan.

Bancroft said audiences have responded positively to “Does Anybody Really Care.”

“It’s been well-received, and I think people it funny and interesting,” Kelly said.

Lisa Kennedy of Austintown watched the choir perform Saturday and said it “was really good” and that there was one particular complaint she related to: “Twenty-five-year-olds saying ‘trick or treat.’”

“I laughed at that,” she said.

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