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Penguin Cafe Orchestra


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(1974 – 1997)

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra was the creation of classically-trained guitarist, composer and arranger Simon Jeffes (Crawley, Sussex, England, 1949-1997). Jeffes and cellist co-founder Helen Liebmann were members throughout its life; a number of other musicians became part of the ensemble playing live and also appearing on studio albums according to the instrumentation of particular pieces. Several members of the original PCO, Geoffrey Richardson,Jennifer Maidman,Steve Fletcher and Annie Whitehead have continued to play the music initailly under the name “The Anteaters” but more recently as “The Orchestra That Fell to Earth

The Penguin’s sound is not easily categorized, but has elements of exuberant folk music and a minimalist aesthetic occasionally reminiscent of composers such as Philip Glass.

The PCO toured extensively during the 80’s and early 90’s, and two albums, “When in Rome” (1988) and “Concert Program” (1995) captured the sound of the live ensemble. Penguin Cafe Orchestra recorded and performed for 24 years until Jeffes died of a brain tumour in 1997. The 10th anniversary of Jeffes’ death was marked by the original PCO members reforming for three concerts at the Union Chapel in London in 2007.

In 2009 Simon Jeffes’ son Arthur Jeffes formed a new group called “Music From The Penguin Cafe” which plays some of the music of PCO along with his own compositions.

After becoming disillusioned with the rigid structures of classical music and the limitations of rock music, in which he also dabbled, Jeffes became interested in the relative freedom in ethnic music and decided to imbue his work with the same sense of immediacy and spirit.


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