Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Penguin Cafe Orchestra biography

There were a number of incarnations of the live band. Original members Gavyn Wright and Steve Nye left in 1984 and 1988 respectively. Bob Loveday replaced Gavyn Wright on violin. Gradually a regular line-up evolved around Simon Jeffes and Helen Liebman: Neil Rennie, who joined in 1975 on ukulele; Geoffrey Richardson, who had joined in 1976 and co-wrote three pieces on Broadcasting from Home (1984), played viola, cuatro, guitar, clarinet, mandolin and ukulele; Julio Segovia answered an advert in the Melody Maker and joined in 1978 on percussion; Paul Street joined in 1984 playing guitar, cuatro and ukulele, leaving in 1988; Jennifer Maidman joined in 1984 on percussion, bass, ukulele and cuatro; Steve Fletcher replaced Steve Nye in 1988 on piano and keyboards and Annie Whitehead, who had also appeared on Broadcasting from Home (1984), joined the live band in 1988 on trombone. Finally, Peter McGowan took over from Bob Loveday on violin and Barbara Bolte joined on oboe. Doug Bevridge also became a regular fixture at the live mixing desk. The album Concert Program (1995) is the definitive recording of this line-up, and includes many of the Penguin's best-known pieces.

After Simon Jeffes' death, members of the orchestra continued to meet up occasionally to play together, but there were no new recordings or public appearances for over ten years. In 2007 the band briefly re-formed, with the line-up as featured on Concert Program (minus Julio Segovia), with Jennifer Maidman now handling Simon's guitar parts. The original members were joined on stage by Simon Jeffes's son Arthur on percussion and additional keyboards, and played three sold-out shows at the Union Chapel in London. After those concerts Arthur Jeffes wanted to form a new group without any of the original PCO members. This he initially called "Music from the Penguin Cafe", later this was shortened to simply "Penguin Cafe". This all-new ensemble, sometimes inaccurately billed as 'The Penguin Cafe Orchestra', played at a number of festivals in 2009, combining Penguin Cafe numbers with new pieces and in 2010 appeared at the BBC Proms (with Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell).

With the 'Penguin Cafe' name now being used by Arthur, the original Penguin Cafe Orchestra members who wanted to continue playing their music needed an alternative title. Four of them, the multi-instrumentalists Geoffrey Richardson and Jennifer Maidman, trombonist Annie Whitehead and pianist Steve Fletcher have since played some festivals under the name 'The Anteaters'. They have been joined by percussionist Liam Genockey. Well known as a member of Steeleye Span, Liam had also played live with the Penguins in Italy in the 1980s. The name 'Anteaters' came from an incident on the 1983 PCO tour of Japan when Simon Jeffes discovered there was a craze for penguins in the country. Simon joked that, if the fashion changed, the orchestra would have to change its name to "The Anteater Cafe Orchestra". In October 2011 the same line-up also appeared at the Canterbury Festival in Kent, UK, performing two hours of original PCO music under another name "The Orchestra That Fell To Earth" and they have subsequently continued to perform under that name.


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