Langley Schools Music Project is a
60-voice chorus of rural school children from
western Canada, untrained but captivated by
melodic magic, singing tunes by the Beach
Boys, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, The Bay
City Rollers, and others. The students
accompany themselves with the shimmering
gamelan chimes of Orff percussion, and
elemental rock trimmings arranged by their
itinerant music teacher, Hans Fenger.
1976-77 recordings, captured on a 2-track
tape deck in a school gymnasium, weren't
staged to achieve money or fame, to 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 deserve
to be heard and preserved. They brim with
charm and youthful élan, 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.
recordings were originally contained on two
12" LPs, pressed exclusively for the
students, their classmates, teachers, and
parents. They were never intended for
exposure outside the provincial Langley
region. But after they came to the attention
of Irwin Chusid, the Songs in the Key of Z
author and record producer vowed to make
these recordings commercially available. He
forged a licensing/trustee agreement with the
Langley School administrators, and with the
blessings of Hans Fenger and several former
student soloists who were located, these
priceless recordings have now been introduced
to the rest of the planet.
recordings were newly remastered and
CEDAR-cleaned, and reverberate with an
astonishing range of fidelity.
package includes a 16-page full-color booklet
chronicling the development of the
recordings; personal reminiscences from Hans
Fenger; photos from the original LP covers;
and colorful sidelights.
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
month, I heard David Bowie's 1969
glam-rock classic 'Space Oddity' as if for
the first time. I'd heard the song on the
radio before, of course; however, coming
as it did, not from Mr. Bowie but from a
choir of elementary school kids in a
remote farm community in northern Canada,
this was something new. Orchestrated in
the late 1970's by a hippie music teacher
named Hans Fenger, the scratchy recording
sounded like a document of a clandestine
event, as if Mr. Bowie's song had been
co-opted for a cult ceremony. The lyric of
the song's wayward astronaut, "For here/
Am I sitting in my tin can/ Far above the
moon," never resonated so genuinely.
'Innocence and Despair' exists outside
just about everyone's cultural radar.
[The album is] mysterious and
haunting in its hermetic vision."