Setanta – 2002 – 68 minutes

Who would have thought that the recordings of a group of children singing songs by the Beatles, David Bowie and Neil Diamond in a school gym in Canada during the mid-1970s would have a life outside the locality? When music teacher Hans Fenger decided to capture the joyous sound of his charges on tape, there was little sign that over twenty years later these basic recordings – Fenger just used a pair of mics, a twin track desk and tape recorder – would be released internationally.

Accompanied by a guitar, piano, drums and some Orff xylophones, the children make a glorious sound, revitalising many classic songs of the 70s that have been overplayed to the extent that they are long since past having meaning.

Take 'The Long and Winding Road': stripped back to basic piano and the voice of a little girl (who occasionally comes close to running out of breath), it has a poignancy and freshness long departed from the Beatles' original. Another soloist, Shelia Behman, tackles the Eagles's Desperado and the mixture of despair and melancholy in her nine-year-old voice sends shivers down your spine. It's undeniably eerie and, in places, incredibly moving.

Although this thread of melancholy runs through many of the songs, the children's glee is also palpable. They tackle the Bay City Rollers' 'Saturday Night' with an energy and ferocity that must have made the gym floor shake, 'I'm Into Something Good' has never sounded better as with this gang of kids "woo hoo hoo"-ing and they also pull off a rollicking version of Paul McCartney's 'Band On The Run'.

Swallowed lyrics, bum notes, odd tempos and all, 'Innocence and Despair' is an unlikely but unique triumph for all concerned. Bless...

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: Venus and Mars / Rock Show - Good Vibrations - God Only Knows - Space Oddity - The Long and Winding Road - Band on the Run - I’m Into Something Good - In My Room - Saturday Night - I Get Around – Mandy - Help Me, Rhonda – Desperado - You’re So Good To Me - Sweet Caroline - To Know Him is to Love Him – Rhiannon - You’re Sixteen - Little Deuce Coup – Wildfire - Calling Occupants of Interplanetarty Craft