innocence and despair

the langley schools music project ~ innocence and despair ( bar/none records, 2001)

imagine that you're a young kid in school. it's 1976 in a small town in canada and you have a music teacher called hans fenger that could be (was) a hippie. and that instead of those silly children songs he exposes you to classic rock songs... well, that happened and in my opinion the kids that were there are damn lucky.
the recordings were made in 1976-77 and only 200 copies were made to be given to the students. 23 years later an independent radio dj found the album on a flea market and was very intrigued when saw the tracklisting.
songs from david bowie, the beach boys, the beatles, barry manilow, the carpenters and others are beautifully sang by 60 children inside a school gymnasium. but the mood of the album is not at all childish... there's this feeling that sometimes makes you think that is an album put up together by some sort of cult formed by youngsters with a fine taste in music.
the version of bowie's 'space oddity' is mind blowing... bowie himself, when asked if he had heard the version, said that '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...'
even manilow's cheesy 'mandy' sounds fantastic in the kids version.
the washington post had one of the prettiest descriptions for the album:
"an album that seems to capture nothing less than the sound of falling in love with music". simply beautiful.
here's what hans fenger, the teacher, said about that time:

"I knew virtually nothing about conventional music education, and didn't know how to teach singing. 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 -- they had élan. 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."

have to say that when i heard the album and found out how it was created i had tears in my eyes...
this may not be the best rock album ever recorded but it sure has the best story behind it.
awesome! full of energy! and wonderful!
(be prepared to cry and smile at the same time)

01.venus and mars / rock show (wings)
02. good vibrations (the beach boys)
03. god only knows (the beach boys)
04. space oddity (david bowie)
05. the long and winding road (the beatles)
06. band on the run (wings)
07. i'm into something good (herman's hermits)
08. in my room (the beach boys)
09. 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 (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 occupant of interplanetary craft (the recognized anthem of world contact day) (the carpenters)

with the release of the album in 2001 and its success (he made into a lot of lists as one of the best albums released that year), vh1 produced a short documentary about the album with interviews with the teacher, the kids (today in their 35-40s)... really worth to see it just to get to know who was this guy that put together such an incredible project with no expectations or ambitions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You made the perfect definition : ''be prepared to cry and smile at the same time''. I can't stand the whole album.Makes me cry for hours but is a real musical pleasure.

Gary. MVD - PMI.