The Langley Schools Music Project



"Seems to sum up all the reasons music is holy. Album of the year candidate."

"An album that seems to capture nothing less than the sound of falling in love with music."
--Washington Post

"There's nothing cute about their performances, which lends the work a strange sense of timelessness. It is an affecting album."
--New York Daily News

"May be the most charming music released this year. ... Innocence and Despair is sui generis."
--Philadelphia Inquirer

"Don't let the seemingly ominous title of this disc fool you. Its contents positively shimmer with light. ... Hans Louis Fenger lovingly taught his kids the power of musical feeling over the sterility of musical theory. The results speak volumes. ... The purity of the children's performances contrasted against the themes suggested in "Desperado" and "Saturday Night" provide much of the disc's disarming and bewitching quality. The Langley Schools Music Project is an aural delight on many levels, flaws and all."
--Today's Parent

"At first glance, Innocence and Despair is an unlikely candidate for the most touching recording ever made, but it is. Innocence and Despair is less a time capsule than it is timeless: The uplifting power of children singing unabashedly never wanes."

"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'."
--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."
--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+
--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."

"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."
--The Onion

Consumer Guide
by Robert Christgau
The Village Voice
April 15, 2002
"Dud of the Month"

"Hans Fenger was a gifted teacher on a mission. Cutting keepsake vinyl for his kiddie choir was a great way for him to reward past involvement while inspiring more. Irwin Chusid is a tedious ideologue with a hustle. Turning that vinyl into a collectible CD is the latest way for him to remind the converted that artistic intention is reserved for the beholder in these postmodern times -- especially if the beholder has a hustle. A few of these songs were great, a few of them sucked, and every one was more innocent and/or desperate in its original version except Barry Manilow's (but not the Bay City Rollers'). A special annoyance is the reportedly tear-jerking 'Desperado' by a 10-year-old who doesn't seem to have any idea what the song means, which is to her credit as a human being but not as a singer. The sole revelation is Brian Wilson, whose six songs still sound like themselves. C MINUS"

"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."
--Philadelphia Weekly

"Last 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."
--New York Times



e-mail: Langley Music Info

®2001 Basta Records & Bar None Records

All content Irwin Chusid except where indicated.