Penguin Cafe

On BBC radio 3 this morning, the presenter announced that next Wednesday’s prom at 10.15 pm (I think!) will feature the Penguin Cafe, formerly the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. The founder, Simon Jeffes, sadly died in 1997, aged only 48, but his son is now organising the ‘Cafe’.


Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Live from the Royal Albert Hall, London

Presented by Catherine Bott

‘I think our recordings have been put in the classical, folk, pop, rock, avantgarde, chillout, world and dance sections of record shop,’ says Arthur Jeffes, leader of Penguin Café, the 21st-century reincarnation of the Penguin Café Orchestra made famous by his father Simon Jeffes.

For its debut in this Late Night Prom the Penguin Café’s wide-ranging lineup of ukulele, dulcitone, penny whistles and alongside violin, cello and piano, is supplemented by the Northumbrian smallpipes – played by their star champion Kathryn Tickell.

Kathryn Tickell (Northumbrian smallpipes)
Penguin Café.

link to the programme notes

Simon Jeffes was born in Sussex. After spending some of his early childhood in Canada, he returned to England. He started to play the guitar at the age of thirteen and subsequently studied classical guitar, piano and music theory and attended the music department of Chiswick Polytechnic with the intention of going on to music college. However finding that academic studying did not suit him, he embarked on a series of experiments. He did not find any of these areas particularly satisfying and eventually formed the Penguin Cafe Orchestra in order to develop his work as a composer. He describes its genesis thus:

“In 1972 I was in the south of France. I had eaten some bad fish and was in consequence rather ill. As I lay in bed I had a strange recurring vision, there, before me, was a concrete building like a hotel or council block. I could see into the rooms, each of which was continually scanned by an electronic eye. In the rooms were people, everyone of them preoccupied. In one room a person was looking into a mirror and in another a couple were making love but lovelessly, in a third a composer was listening to music through earphones. Around him there were banks of electronic equipment. But all was silence. Like everyone in his place he had been neutralized, made gray and anonymous. The scene was for me one of ordered desolation. It was as if I were looking into a place which had no heart. Next day when I felt better, I went to the beach. As I sat there a poem came to me. It began ‘I am the proprietor of the Penguin Cafe. I will tell you things at random.’

Penguin Cafe

female vocals appear to be lacking, but I’ll search on YouTube …

Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Perpetuum Mobile

As featured on 3Breakfast this morning (3/9/2010) :)

Penguin Cafe Orchestra- Music For A Found Harmonium

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra-Telephone and Rubber Band

addendum: I’ve discovered I have a tiny bit in common with two of the presenters: A favourite ‘art centre’ (an understatement), and my favourite room in my house is … my shed! …

Sara Mohr-Pietsch and Dartington

I went along one year for the literary festival.

Rob Cowan and his shed

I think he also uses yacht varnish! It certainly looks rather fine.

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