The Victoria Complaints Choir was a January – May 2010 project hosted by Open Space, Victoria, and funded by the British Columbia Arts Council through a Community Collaboration Grant. The outcome was the creation of three songs (listen here) performed in May 2010 on downtown Victoria Streets, during the Salmon Migration rally at the BC Legislature, and in concert during the Open Space Voice++ Festival.
The intention of the project, which was open to anyone, was to build bridges between new and traditional art forms and interested community members, to demystify vocal practice and the creative process, and to offer community members direct contact with professional artists in collaborative public performances. Most importantly, the project aimed to give a fun, dynamic here-and-now ‘voice’ to whomever wanted to participate on behalf of the wider community, and to do it in public.
The Victoria Complaints Choir project was inspired by the International Complaints Choir movement and used both traditional and experimental song and vocal forms that arose from inclinations uncovered from group discussions, and from facilitated soundmaking and wordplay.
VICTORIA COMPLAINTS CHOIR PERFORMERSGeraldine Bulosan, Bharat Chandramouli, Jane Former, Linda Glass, Soumya Natarajan, Tina Pearson, Chris Reiche, Grace Salez, Jennifer Witvliet, Billy Bingaman and Ian Griffiths. Complaints Choir song lyrics by Choir performers above, with additional lyrics by Lynda Liinamaa, Rebecca Michaels, Ken Gordon, Megan Thom, Jacob Derksen, Gust Burns, Dallas Duobaitis, Alan Kollins and others. Choir Director/Facilitator/Composer: Tina PearsonAccordionist and additional music: Ian GriffithsPercussion and Theatrical elements: Soumya NatarajanText editing: Grace Salez, Geraldine Bulosan, Tina PearsonGiant Lanterns: Jennifer WitvlietComplaints Choir program and leaflets: Alan KollinsPhotos and Video Documentation: Jared BrandleVideo editing: Grace Salez
The first stage of the project focused on soliciting, gathering and organizing “complaints” from the the community. Complaints were grouped by themes and discussed before being edited into small fragments that could be used for song construction.
Each meeting also included one or more workshop exercises (breathing techniques, care of the vocal cords, vocal toning, sonic mimicry, speak-singing and body rhythms), with a focus more on the developing song structures as the sessions progressed. The sound, rhythm and character of the participants’ unique voices were heard during the sessions, and defined the style and rhythm of the songmaking.
Participants played a fundamental role in determining the content and form of the songs. A small group worked on text editing, did further research on issues that arose from theme discussions, and collaborated in the group rhythmic structures and body rhythms used in performance.
An important element of the project was the notion that visual signifiers would help the public display and performance and lend a feisty and celebratory tone. Collaborating with visual artist Jennifer Witvliet brought giant paper and bamboo lanterns to the project – giving the choir visibility and a way to engage with onlookers during the public performances.
VICTORIA COMPLAINTS CHOIR SONGS
Cars and Bikes arose from the initial meetings, where three factions – pedestrians, cyclists and cars, made competing arguments about the use of streets and sidewalks, and brought issues of concern. The lyrics, humour and rhythms of the discussion suggested the music. Listen Here
Welcome to Canada was made from lyrics by Bharat Chandramouli, whose alternately poignant and hilarious riffs on assumptions about newcomers to Canada provided a great foundation for a rap-inspired song, with theatrical introduction by Soumya Natarajan, who also played percussion. Listen Here
Homeless took its lyrics from government statistics about homelessness in Victoria, and used a liturgical chant as the musical form. Listen Here
The locations for the complaints performances were chosen by the participants. The choir performed May 5, 2010 starting at Bastion Square in downtown Victoria, proceeding to Government and Yates Streets before joining the Salmon Migration rally that was marching to the BC Provincial Legislature. Along the way, the Complaints Choir made a fish chant to add to the drumming, bells, singing and other sounds made by the migration parade.
The Complaints Choir also performed May 12, 2010 at the Open Space Voice++ Festival, at Open Space.
More Complaints Choir photos can be found here.