The Langley Schools Music Project
Just came across this amazing album from the 70s that has been reissued this year. Its called “Innocence and Despair” and it was a part of the Langley Schools Music Project. The project is a collection of children’s chorus recordings made from 1976-77 by Canadian music teacher Hans Fenger in a school gymnasium in Langley, British Columbia that’s a town near Vancouver, Canada for those who don’t know). The students beautifully performed pop hits by the likes of The Beach Boys, David Bowie, and Paul McCartney. The recordings were quickly forgotten until author, radio DJ, and “outsider music” enthusiast Irwin Chusid rediscovered them in 2000. He managed to get them released on Bar/None Records, and they immediately created an international buzz, making many end-of-the-year best album lists in 2001. VH-1 orchestrated a reunion of the students and their teacher in 2002, and aired a documentary as well.
“I knew virtually nothing about conventional music education,” says Hans Fenger when looking back on the project. “Above all, I knew nothing of what children’s music was supposed to be. But the kids had a grasp of what they liked: emotion, drama, and making music as a group. Whether the results were good, bad, in tune or out was no big deal,” Fenger continues. “This was not the way music was traditionally taught. But then I never liked conventional ‘children’s music,’ which is condescending and ignores the reality of children’s lives, which can be dark and scary. These children hated ‘cute.’ They cherished songs that evoked loneliness and sadness”
It makes for some really powerful music that re-interprets some of our best loved songs. There is a deep melancholic quality to the sound, but an undeniable uplifting spirit as well.
This goes on my “highly recommend you should buy this on vinyl” list: Innocence and Despair
Langley Schools Music Project – Space Oddity
Langley Schools Music Project – Desperado