And on the steps of the Opera House will be a performance by Mieskuoro Huutajat (Shouting Men’s Choir), a group from Finland whose vocal style reflects their name and who plan to focus on Australian history and politics for the biennale.
The Mieskuoro Huutajat (Men’s Choir The Shouters) – was formed in 1987 in Oulu, Finland, by a group of young men who clearly had nothing better to do.
The idea was to dress 20 men in black suits, white shirts and black rubber ties, and train them to shout some of the most beloved songs in the Finnish song heritage.
With the outward appearance of a traditional choir, composer Petri Sirviö’s uncommon treatment of music and text has created an entirely new form. By stripping songs of melody, complex rhythmic structures come to the fore and the resulting performances explore both the range of the human voice and the emotions behind its material with alternating humour and gravity.
Sirviö and his shouting accomplices have turned their attention to Australia for the first time in a video installation made specially for the 17th Biennale of Sydney that involves a rousing rendition of extracts from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s historic speech to Parliament in 2008, marking the first official apology to be given to the stolen generations of the country.
On the 6th of December (the Finnish Independence Day), the choir were ready for their first performance. The choir shouted several patriotic songs and marches, the national anthem included. The audience was left gaping when the choir departed after a short, but maximally intensive performance.
This is how the press reacted: “HUUTAJAT are quite obviously just starting on their way to magnificent artistic achievements.” One result of this performance was that the choir quickly expanded to more than thirty members.
From the beginning, this new concept was recognised as a major breakthrough and an art form in its own right. Traditional singing choirs have given this choir their outer appearance and a basis for their expression. But this is as far as the analogy goes. When the choir find a song that pleases their temperament and warped sense of humour, the conductor starts dismantling it: the melody goes first and usually the text is also heavily trimmed. The remains are then cast into a completely new form; the complex rhytmic structure emphasises the essence of the text, or simply reflects the voices inside the human brain provoked by the language itself, music, urban or rural noise, or the blood circulation system.
A performance by HUUTAJAT contains sharp contrasts. The emphatically disciplined expression does not exclude primitive force; precise articulation mixes with non-linguistic howl; amusing turns to serious without warning. This has made it impossible to categorise the act and it has enabled the choir to perform for a variety of audiences from sweaty rock clubs to chamber music concerts.