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Complain, complain, complain–Letter from Shelley Spector

Budapest Complaint Choir
Budapest Complaint Choir

Dear Libby and Roberta,

I am writing to invite you and and your friends (readers of Artblog) to participate in SPECTOR Projects’ newest work. It’s called the Philadelphia Complaints Choir. To put it simply, it’s a homemade Philly choir (no experience necessary) that  performs a song created from complaints collected from Philadelphians. Composer, Evan Solot is creating an original piece for the choir to sing,  and he and I will work together on the lyrics. We will meet to practice four times beginning this Thursday, September 25th and following the rehearsals we’ll have two performance dates in November.

St. Petersburg.jpg
Complaint Choir, St. Petersburg

Before I get further into details, let me just explain. This past summer, I went with my UArts Graduate students to New York and at PS1 saw videos of Complaints Choirs from around the world. The originating artists, collaborators Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta- Kalleinen of Finland, did open calls in various locations (my favorite Helesinki) and thru a series of meeting and complaining, they created a public choral performance, documented by videos like the ones I saw. The project brilliantly combined many of the elements that lace through both my studio practice and my curatorial projects; including people, music, community, multi- media, anthropology, sociology and fun.

Complaint Collector in action.

I believe we here in Philly can complain as good as the best of them.

So… I am joining forces with First Person Arts to create this project of communal whining. With the blessings of it’s originating artists, we are bringing to Philadelphia this event that is literally moving around the globe. Beginning in Birmingham, UK it has traveled to Helsinki, Singapore, Israel, Australia, Budapest and onward. Check them out here.

Helsinki Complaint Choir

One special element of our local project was to canvas the city for complaints. Basically, standing shoulder to shoulder with Greenpeace and Register to Vote folks, we beat the pavement and gave people permission to vent about anything.

Birmingham Complaint Choir

If you are interested in joining, (Again, no experience necessary, it will range from tone deaf to professional) Come to the first meeting this Thursday, September 25, 7:00pm – 8:30pm. It’s at the Gersham Y at Broad and Pine Streets. (It’s free too)

We will have three rehearsals in October 13, 20, 27 – all Monday’s from 6:00pm – 7:30. They will be at Caplan Recital Hall, 17th Floor, Terra Building, 211 S. Broad (Walnut and Broad) .

There are two performance dates, November 12th includes a 7PM performance at the Painted Bride Art Center and another TBA soon. If you have any questions you can email me ( or check current info on SPECTOR Projects or First Person Arts website (see links above).

To In the meantime, you may see some of our volunteers canvasing in the streets of Philly. They will be wearing black tee shirts with white letters spelling, Complaint Collector. Go up to them and tell them what’s bugging you.


Shelley Spector