Langley Schools Music Project


The 19 tracks on THE LANGLEY SCHOOLS MUSIC PROJECT document a 60-voice chorus of rural Canadian school children, age 9-12, recorded in 1976-1977. Technically untrained but mesmerized by melodic magic, the students sing from-the-heart renditions of tunes by the Beach Boys, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, The Bay City Rollers, and others. They accompany themselves with the shimmering gamelan-like chimes of Orff percussion instruments and elemental rock trimmings arranged by their "gypsy" music teacher, Hans Fenger.

These recordings, caught on 2-track tape in a Western Canada school gym, weren't staged to achieve money or fame, sell albums or land a record contract. These kids played music because they loved it. Innocent, flawed and bittersweet, guided by Fenger's unsuspecting genius, these recordings brim with charm and adolescent elan, sparked by flashes of lo-fi Spectorian majesty and PET SOUNDS subtlety. Call it folk art, outsider, or campfire rock -- the labels don't matter. These are gorgeous, heavenly artifacts. The Langley Schools Music Project was produced for first commercial issue by IRWIN CHUSID (Raymond Scott, Esquivel, Shaggs, Songs in the Key of Z).

On February 23, 2018, Bar None is re-issuing this coveted record on a deluxe double LP with extensive liner notes and updated packaging. Innocence and Despair is available now on CD in an upgraded digi-pak with an eight page color booklet.

Track Listing

  1. Venus and Mars/Rock Show (Paul McCartney & Wings)
  2. Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys)
  3. God Only Knows (The Beach Boys)
  4. Space Oddity (David Bowie)
  5. The Long and Winding Road (The Beatles)
  6. Band On The Run (Paul McCartney & Wings)
  7. In My Room (The Beach Boys)
  8. I'm Into Something Good (Earl-Jean/Herman's Hermits)
  9. Saturday Night (Bay City Rollers)
  10. I Get Around (The Beach Boys)
  11. Mandy (Barry Manilow)
  12. Help Me, Rhonda (The Beach Boys)
  13. Desperado (The Eagles)
  14. You're So Good To Me (The Beach Boys)
  15. Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond)
  16. To Know Him Is To Love Him (Teddy Bears)
  17. Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac)
  18. Wildfire (Michael Martin Murphy)
  19. Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day) (Klaatu/The Carpenters)
The Langley Schools Music Project - Innocence & Despair
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‘Innocence’ is a delight, an album that seems to capture nothing less than the sound of falling in love with music. And it’s enhanced by the improbable tale of how these neighborhood sessions resurfaced more than two decades after they were recorded.
— David Segal, Washington Post, October 29, 2001
The spirit [of the Langley CD] is so pure you’re likely to appreciate it as if you were a proud parent on open-house night ... It is an affecting album
— Isaac Guzman, NY Daily News, October 30, 2001
The Langley Kids tap into the spirit of rock & roll better than most rock & roll bands.
— Jay Ruttenberg, Time Out NY, November 8-15, 2001
A one-of-a-kind recording unlikely to ever be duplicated. ...Everyone, not just educators, can probably find something to cherish in the Langley Schools Music Project’s ‘Innocence and Despair’.
— Kurt Rheigley, Seattle Weekly
A remarkable achievement, which captures the beauty of the pop songs in unpredictable ways. Even with warbled harmonies and rudimentary musical accompaniment, the young students somehow bypass the hurdle of skill to get to the pure heart of the songs.
— Joshua Klein, Chicago Tribune
Outside-music archivist [and Langley chronicler] Irwin Chusid [insists] that these strange and charming renditions of songs like ‘Space Oddity,’ ‘I’m Into Something Good,’ and ‘Desperado’ have artistic merit. Surprisingly, he’s right. In its own surreally amateurish way, this stuff is both accomplished and addictive.
Rating: B+
— Rob Brunner, Entertainment Weekly
Once you recover from the kitsch of their schoolyard rendition of the Carpenters’ ode to extraterrestrial life, ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft,’ you may well regard this CD as a testament to the value of creative teaching, and of music education in schools.
— Sue Cummings,
Listening to Sheila Behman’s sweet solo on “Desperado” or the hopeful, hokey sentiments of “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft,” it’s hard not to be moved. It may be more than a little rough around the edges, but in its own way, Innocence & Despair finds perfection.
— Keith Phipps, The Onion
While, yes, it’s very funny, and yes, it’s also very cute, it’s also apparent from early on that something of true greatness is happening here. Because Innocence & Despair is also possessed of a haunting beauty and deserted charm that absolutely belies its humble aims — just to document ... the school choir. Instead, something happens on the record that takes the heart-on-the-sleeve misery and doubt and excitement that has always been a part of the modern love song and, through the echoey unison of the children’s voices, makes that longing cosmic. It’s as unsettling as it is riveting. ... Even looked at in the simplest terms of what Fenger was hired to do — teach the kids a little something about music — [“In My Room”] alone proves the invaluable service in Fenger’s haphazard method. That the documentation of it has survived this long is merely an accident of history and a wonder all its own.
— Joey Sweeney, Philadelphia Weekly
The backing arrangement is astounding. Coupled with the earnest if lugubrious vocal performance you have a piece of art that I couldn’t have conceived of, even with half of Colombia’s finest export products in me.
— David Bowie (on the Langley students' rendition of "Space Oddity")
The effect of all those young voices singing ‘Calling Occupants’ is charming.
— Richard Carpenter
This is beauty. This is truth. This is music that touches the heart in a way no other music ever has, or ever could.
— John Zorn
The Langley Schools Music Project is the celebration of passion over skill. They understand these songs better than the people that wrote them. This is real folk music.
— Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller)