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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 orchestra’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 group toured extensively during the 1980s and early 1990s; two albums, When in Rome (1988) and Concert Program (1995), captured the sound of the live ensemble. Penguin Cafe Orchestra recorded and performed for twenty-four years until Jeffes died of a brain tumour in 1997. The tenth 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 Arthur’s own compositions. In 2011 Arthur’s group changed their name to simply “Penguin Cafe”.



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