I stumbled on an interview on National Public Radio's Todd Mundt
Show, and first learned of the Langley Schools Music Project.
As I sat there in my truck eating lunch, I listened to clips
of the children singing. I was horrified at my emotional reaction
to what I was hearing.
As an adult
still making sense of a somewhat abusive childhood, I am discovering
how much of my innocence was given over to despair and the desperate
attempts I made to cope with my pain. I listened to the children
singing adult songs, many of which were quite popular during
the height of some of my personal trauma. Suddenly ghosts emerged
from my heart, my mind, the bowels of my soul. I sang those songs
as a child. I sang Simon and Garfunkel, Karen Carpenter, and
the inebriated ballads of Charlie Rich. I was six, seven, eight,
even nine years old then.
I do not know
what it is I am trying to say in all this, except to say that
these recording, which I will soon own, have opened a chasm within
me that makes Pandora's box seem like little more than a child's
toy chest. Today my world has changed, perhaps forever. I am
a grown man, 33 years of age, who has thought himself strong,
and resolved to the issues of yesterday. Now I do not know if
I should ask God to curse you for resurrecting this project,
or thank you from that bottom of my heart for helping unearth
a woundedness long since hidden, and now aching to heal. For
now I will say Thank you.
A few days
ago I picked up Innocence and Despair, which I'd ordered at a
local music store. I was looking forward to listening to all
the selections, having only heard samples on the web site and
a couple of complete selections on CBC Radio. I skipped directly
to "Desperado," sung so beautifully by Sheila Behman
and, just as when I'd first heard this on the radio, I found
tears quickly filling my eyes. I went through a few tissues while
appreciating this album. Many of the selections evoke the same
feelings so aptly described in the title of the CD. Songs like
"God Only Knows," "In My Room," and "Wildfire"
stand out in this regard, but my favorite is "Desperado."
"Help Me Rhonda," "Rhiannon," and "Good
Vibrations" are memorable in the way they bring out the
rampant enthusiasm still lurking within us adults and oh-so-ready
to bubble to the surface in children.
first hearing "Desperado" on CBC Radio. I'd been working
on the computer, but as the song was introduced and then began,
I had to stand, turn up the volume and get close to the radio
to hear it better. I felt right away that this was something
very very special. I'm 49, a guy, and yet there I was, just about
weeping as the song played. I can't explain why it moves me so
much. I've heard of similar reactions in other people and read
many of the erudite reviews of this song and the CD. Whatever
magic was present that day when Hans and Sheila let the universe
unfold as it should has carried forward through time, and still
has the power to touch us all in a very profound and moving way.
Thank you Hans.
Thank you Sheila. Love to you both.
I bought the
Langley cd off the internet. I'd heard the British writer, Hanif
Kureshi, who is a big fish in the arts world and a proselytizer,
say on BBC Radio 3 that it was one of his favorites. I have to
agree. I was quite unprepared for it. Something was profoundly
moving and I cried throughout the whole thing. I work as a playwright
(for the National Theatre here) and screenwriter (most recently
of the film Billy Elliot), and know how difficult it is to create
something that has complexity and directness at the same time,
but I think you managed it.
I have also
worked with kids a lot, mostly doing drama, and I know how difficult
it is to create something that overcomes their technical limitations
and to free their innate creativity. When this happens it's sublime
because there's an honesty which is very unusual. Anyway, with
the best intentions it happens very rarely, but your cd just
overflows with it. I felt humbled but completely uplifted.
I am the last person to write such gushing emails, but feel as
if I had to tell you how moving and inspiring I found the recordings.
I'm so glad you're still working with kids. You have an indisputable
gift, but on purely musical terms I thought the arrangements
superb and harnessed your resources with immense grace and taste.
I imagine it must be quite strange to get all this applause for
something you did so long ago, but you should know it's some
of the finest music I've heard, without qualification.
and best wishes,
I was recently
introduced to this CD by my son, an aspiring teacher. I first
listened to it with him in my truck with only some verbal background
from him. We laughed at some of the parts, especially the music
and picturing the students.
I then read
the book and listened to the CD at home, and gained a profound
appreciation for your efforts. Your students were truly blessed
to have you as a teacher. Having the recording for the world
to appreciate is a bonus. I have never heard anything as sweet,
and not one single sour note was heard. They may have been there,
but if you listen with the knowledge of what this was about,
you cannot hear them.
I am your age
and lived in a small town in Northern California. I remember
my grammar school choir singing Christmas Carols on TV (local
station) and ringing sleigh bells (my Mom had a set of genuine
camel bells that passed). Later I participated in a city pageant
with costumes and props. I continued singing in school Glee Clubs
through Junior High, until I finally realized I couldn't sing.
I was never discouraged by my teachers. I made the decision.
The CD brought
back fond memories of a time when teachers did more than teach.
They allowed students to explore and learn. I hope my son develops
the same attitude towards teaching. You certainly have opened
his eyes to the possibilities of impacting his students.
As a side note,
I believe the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus" could have
been about you. Teachers like you who inspire your students to
try will surely lead them to succeed.
Schools Music Project is the celebration of passion over skill.
They have done the impossible. They have made Paul McCartney's
music interesting and put it on equal footing with Brian Wilson's
music. They understand these songs better than the people that
wrote them. This is real folk music."
--Penn Jillette (Penn and Teller)
listening to Langley School CD. On "Calling Occupants,"
I can't help notice the similarity of the backing gamelan/percussion
to Glaswegian post rock noiseniks MOGWAI. Check out Mogwai Fear
Satan for comparison. My 11-year-old daughter reckons the Langley
Schools CD is crap, just like her school choir.
--Jamie Mack - On the Outsde, Looking Out....
I was getting
e-mails about the "Langley Schools Project." At first
I didn't pay much attention, but I started finding reviews in
high-profile publications. My interest was piqued, partly because
I am a huge fan of children's recordings, and have collected
more than a hundred -- I started way back in 1970 with a tune
called "Mill Valley." I still had no intention of purchasing
"Langley". Then I went to the Langley website and read
the reviews. I started thinking, "There must be something
to this -- maybe I will buy it and see what the fuss is about."
So I went to Tower and bought "Langley." I put it in
my player and thought, "I just coughed up 16 bucks for this,
please let it be good!"
I put it on
track 13, "Desperado," because the reviews singled
this track out for special praise.
It's hard to
put into words how I felt on listening. It struck me that I was
listening to something sublime. This recording has the most otherworldly
sense of melancholy and an almost unbearable feeling of innocence.
I played it again and am not ashamed to say tears were rolling
down my cheeks.
to this track five times this morning, and I'm gonna listen to
it again. I consider this the best song I've found in the last
year, and one of the best I've heard in my LIFE. Yes it was WORTH
the money! I haven't even listened to the other tracks yet but
this one makes it all worthwhile. Thanks very much for putting
to thank you for seeing that the 'Langley School's Music Project'
was made available to the public. I thoroughly enjoyed the segment
on NPR's Weekend Edition. I have never been a fan of the Eagles,
but hearing Sheila Behman's rendition of 'Desperado' brought
tears to my eyes, it was so precious. Every song I heard was
so dark and touching. Many, many thank you's!"
morning I received a letter by Rob Chrispijn that he had to pull
over his car at highway exit Almere Noord, because of too much
tears during 'Desperado' sung by the Langley girl [which was
aired on Radio 2]. Think we received a lot of responses at the
--Jacques (DJ, Radio 2 - second largest station in Netherlands)
music in public schools for 31 years. This is the A+ in childrens'
interests, plus the parents' interests. We need to realize folk
music is good, and some of the pop 'folk' music is even better!
Keep hangin' in there, Mr. Fenger. I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
--Kathleen Wood (Texas)
done a great service by making this happen. I find the music
to be eerie, inspiring, disturbing, beautiful, morose, and otherworldly,
sometimes all at the same time."
Schools Music Project is unlistenable by me because I have a
lifelong phobia of children, particularly children's voices.
This saved me from all of the usual childhood diseases. For me
the great thing about this record is the room tone of what is
evidently a gym. Since I have never been in a gym, I don't have
any associations, good or bad, so I can just appreciate the boom...
until someone starts singing."
--Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields)
on the Langley Schools Music Project. Wonderful. I'll give it
plenty of exposure."
a find this music is -- it transcends all categorization."
CD is blowing my band away! They beg to hear it when they come
--Rebecca Moore (Knitting Factory recording artist)
Those of us
who are not gifted musicians with a big record contract can understand
the Langley Schools Music Project on its most basic level. There
is a desire in many of us to express ourselves musically. For
me, it is down in the basement with a beat-up Hondo electric
guitar (with four strings) and an old DuKane school PA amplifier.
The results, while certainly not up to any professional level,
certainly make me feel good.
In that context,
Sheila Behman's rendition of "Desperado" is one of
the most sublime recordings ever made. It approaches and perhaps
equals the beauty of such lofty efforts as Mozart's Requiem and
Barber's Adagio, both of which never fail to bring tears to my
eyes. I'm not ashamed to tell you that Sheila's tender reading
of "Desperado" and the haunting piano arrangement will
stay with me my whole life. Remarkably, a nine-year-old girl
completely topped the originators of the song, delivering a level
of sincerity unknown in a Hollywood recording studio. I never
liked the Eagles or Linda Ronstadt. I had to live through that
whole time period subjected to the execrable "Hotel California"
and Ronstadt's wretched cover tunes. Little Sheila Behman and
Hans Fenger have brought an esthetic poetic justice to that time
in my life. Thank you for bringing it to me.
WDIY FM, Allentown, PA
My stereo is
set to start up every morning at 6 a.m. with whatever CD happens
to be in it at the time. Depending on if I think of it before
I go to bed, I set the volume to be a relaxing wakeup call, but
usually I put it so low that I can barely hear it when I awake.
around 6 o'clock, I began to have a dream that I was back at
Blessed Sacrament Catholic grade school. I'm not sure how or
why, but I began to sob heavily out of fear, remorse, and nostalgia.
I woke still shaking and realized that the Langley School Music
Project was playing softly in my room.
I am a 21-year-old,
urban college student. My emotional index has dwindled intensely
since my grade school years. I don't remember the last time I
wept -- not just cried but wept. And this CD, unconciously playing
in the background, brought it straight out of me.
I'm not exactly
sure who to thank, but I am so glad to have this CD as a reminder
of my age of innocence and despair.
I work at Arons
Records in Los Angeles, an indie vinyl/obscure type of shop.
The other day we got in the Langley CD. Upon hearing it, I fell
in love with it. It was at once haunting, eerie and beautiful.
Then I started to read the booklet that came with the disc, and
became completely immersed in this story. It was everything that
a good story means to me and everything that music means to me
and should mean to all. I remember buying records and diving
into them all day and living in and around them for weeks. That
is what kids feel about music and especially songs that speak
to them. For me it was The Smiths' "The Queen Is Dead"
or David Bowie records.
[Found on Songbirds,
a listserv "devoted to discussions of the legendary female
vocalists of classic pop and jazz," in which subscribers
submitted 'Bests of 2001' and recent discoveries]
Songbird has to be nine-year old (in '76) Sheila Behman whose
"Desperado" (on The Langley Schools Music Project:
Innocence and Despair) is the most moving of performances I heard
this year. The versions by the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt might
have convinced you it's an insipid song, but when Sheila sings
"oh freedom," ... Other songs on The Langley Schools
Project CD, a reissue of 1976-77 recordings made in a western
Canada school gym, have given me smiles and laughs galore over
the past weeks. The enthusiasm of the 60-voice chorus and the
avant-garde percussion on "Help Me, Rhonda" make it
a marketable cure for depression. The production "values"
on "Space Oddity" owe something to the inspiration
of Phil Spector and Sun Ra and the amazing acoustics of that
rural Canadian gym. Music teacher Hans Fenger ties Tedd Firth
for best accompanist.
Fairfax Station, VA
the Langley Schools record today after having first read about
it in Rolling Stone and then being reminded of it by a discussion
on a Beach Boy's SMiLE Web board. It is amazing. I too agree
that the kid's versions of "Desperado," "Band
on the Run," and "The Long and Winding Road" are
actually BETTER than the originals, and that's saying something.
Thank you for making it available.
I played it for a whole group of my friends the other night,
and everyone was spellbound. The last note of "The Long
and Winding Road" got everyone. Smiles all around! I am
now off to band practice where I will preach its greatness to
those fellows as well.
Rock Over London,
Rock On Langley!
A music journalist
friend here in Hollywood called and told me about this wacky
record he'd just bought of a Jr. High chorus singing songs by
some of my favorite artists, and proceeded to play it for me
over the phone. It was the "Langley" record. I ran
right out and bought it.
I just wanted
to tell you that this is the best record I've bought in quite
a while. Hans Fenger's choice of material for a Jr. High chorus
is just SO amazing. Rock Show, Space Oddity, and my favorite
song ever, God Only Knows -- and to hear 60 kids sing these in
unison just gives you the most insane warm, fuzzy feeling. I'm
the same age as most of these kids are now. There was no better
period for pop music than the 60's and 70's, and this just proves
the point further.
I'm a musician
and this is the coolest thing I've ever heard. I have already
turned people on to this record. Me and a few friends sat and
listened to it and "Desperado" nearly brought one of
them to tears. She made me play it again a few more times. Thanx
for having the guts and good sense to put this out, and I hope
it sells tons so the kids at Langley can get more money for their
Rock n Roll...
--Jim Bacchi - guitarist/songwriter
FUZZBUBBLE / TEEN MACHINE
I am a teacher
from British Columbia, Canada and have read with great interest
about the amazing Langley Schools Project recording. Thanks for
bringing such widespread attention to the project. Not only does
it reinforce the value of music education for all students (talented
or not) but gives us an important example of an innovative teacher
who has influenced his students with his teaching abilities and
honest interest for their personal connections to music.
a great Christmas. My wife and I are old folkies. You and the
kids brought back a lot of goood memories this blessed afternoon.
My daughter gave us the CD. I had heard the interview with Irwin
on the CBC a few weeks ago. We have listened to the album a lot
and it just gets better.
struck me was your leadership.skills and being able of enthuse
and provoke such a wonderful response from the kids. They were
so turned on that the songs jump off the CD. You are nothing
short of a genius to have motivated the kids and then shaped
them into an enthusiastic musical group, while not sweating the
I know that
it is a one off and that fact makes it all the more special.
God bless and thanks to you both.
One of our favorite
Amazon.com customer reviews:
Reviewer: A music fan from California
"The Brady Kids in Disguise"
Absolutely, positively, HORRIBLE! Just listen to the sound samples
and hear for yourself. I had heard good things about this album.
Someone obviously has a screw loose to think this was good enough
for release. Bru-ther.
I'm happy for the success of this record etc. etc. but I really
can't stand listening to it.
But I love you anyway.
Read reaction from David
Graupner, President/CEO of TM Century, Inc., here ...