The Penguin Cafe Way
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra's music is beautiful, humorous and unique. It will sound familiar to anybody, anywhere in the world, and that's why it will make you smile.
To others, its musical style can be loosely defined as a blend of chamber music, ambient and folk with strong harmonic elements. Lots of strings, piano, harmonium, bass, cuatro and ukuleles are the main instruments.
Watch and Listen to The Penguin Cafe Orchestra - You might have listened to their music already!
Simon Jeffes - PCO's Founder, Sole Composer and Spiritual Proprietor
December 11, 1997 was a very sad day for all Penguin Cafe fans. Simon Jeffes died of a brain tumor. I still remember that two years earlier I missed the opportunity to go to one of PCO's last concerts.
He always considered he didn't have enough musical training to be a classical musician and no intimacy with pop to be a popular musician. And although he lived in many countries and was crazy about music from many cultures he never wanted to do "world music".
In this clip, Simon explains why he used Penguin for the name of the band.
Arthur Jeffes and Music From The Penguin Cafe
Arthur Jeffes (Simon's son) has brought together a group of musicians to create Music from the Penguin CafÃ©, playing the music of the Penguin CafÃ© Orchestra and combining it with his own compositions.
Arthur reformed the Penguin CafÃ© Orchestra for two tribute concerts in 2007 and has now taken PCO to its logical next step, bringing together a group of young musicians to play the music of the Penguin CafÃ© Orchestra combined with some of his own pieces.
A Matter of Life... - the latest album (or is it?)
This album is the closest thing to bringing the band back from the original Penguin CafÃ© Orchestra. Thirteen years after Simon Jeffes death, his son, Arthur, has started playing his music again. Performing under the name Penguin Cafe, the younger Jeffes along with a new group of musicians is re-visiting his father s music and starting a new chapter in the story of this unique and strange creative world. Their sound is at once familiar and new, combining acoustic power and a beguiling, feisty charm.
Arthur's Own Rendition
"My father loved Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. A thank-you telegram he once received from John Cage, for some help with a performance of a piece in New York, was framed on the wall of his study."
"Music for a Found Harmonium, written on an abandoned harmonium he had stumbled over on a Kyoto street. He didn't pick up the instrument straight away - he left a note on it saying he'd come back the next day and, if whomsoever didn't mind, he'd take it away. Whomsoever clearly didn't mind, and that piece of music and the harmonium have travelled the world."
So How Was The Show?
It's been a few years since I have been so captivated by a performance. An eclectic mix of supreme musicians who were obviously having fun and enjoying every moment of the performance. I didn't want the night to end.
Thank you for such a wonderful evening.
Still Life At The Penguin Cafe - The PCO Alumni Went Back For 3 Concerts on December 2007
On December 11th, 12th and 13th 2007 musicians of the fabled and fabulous Penguin Cafe Orchestra played three concerts at the Union Chapel in Islington, North London.
The shows were timed to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of the PCO's founder, Simon Jeffes.
John Bungey wrote a nice review on TimesOnline: "Under the auspices of Jeffes's son Arthur, the ten-piece ensemble revived greatest hits that varied from the melodic minimalism of Numbers 1-4 to the joyous bustle of Music for a Found Harmonium and the Latin lilt of Lifeboat (Lovers Rock)."
From left to right: Peter McGowan, Barbara Bolte, Helen Liebmann, Arthur Jeffes, Geoffrey Richardson, Stephen Fletcher, Annie Whitehead, Jennifer Maidman and Neil Rennie.
1. Air a Danser
2. White Mischief
4. Southern Jukebox Music
5. Number 1-4
7. Perpetuum Mobile
8. Nothing Really Blue
9. Telephone and Rubber Band
11. Prelude and Yodel
12. Surface Tension
13. Oscar Tango
14. Music for a Found Harmonium
15. Lifeboat (Lovers Rock)
16. Steady State
17. Scherzo and Trio
18. Paul's Dance
19. Giles Farnaby's Dream
20. Salty Bean Fumble
21. Red Shorts
Three Reasons to Love Penguin Cafe Orchestra
1. Its Unique Music
2. Its Weird Name
3. Its Album Covers
Giles Farnaby's Dream - BBC TV Old Grey Whistle Test
A brilliant mix of English renaissance and Venezuelan joropo folk music. Simon plays the cuatro, a Venezuelan 4-string instrument. I think it's the best of the Zopf suite.
Giles Farnaby was a 16th century early-music composer.
Dance Music Anyone? - Oscar Tango
Who's Behind The Album Covers?
Emily Young produced the artwork for most album covers for PCO. In the 70s and 80s, she lived and worked with Simon Jeffes. She's also the mother of Simon's son: Arthur Jeffes. Today, Emily Young has become one of the most important sculptors in Great Britain.
Artwork for the album: Union Cafe
PCO Live! - More Outstanding Videos
Broadcasting From Home - A Fan's Perspective
Leonardo from The Netherlands created videos inspired on this album, which include pieces like White Mischief, Isle Of View (Music For Helicopter Pilots) and Air. He talks about the intuitive process of making these videos:
"First, I choose a piece of music that I like and then I experience it with videos or drawings I've made. With the right atmosphere in place, I just follow the feelings I get while listening to the music. I try to translate it into movements, colors, figures, etc. Sometimes I get surprised about the outcome while I'm using my design or video-editing program; sometimes I don't know how I create things and if I like them I quickly rush to save the edited video. I just couldn't reproduce the same thing all over again."
"The important thing is that I always try to create a balance between the music and the video. They have to become one."
A Must Have
“I am the spiritual proprietor of the Penguin Cafe, I will tell you things at random”
Simon's Solo Work
A Classic Photo
David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Simon Jeffes
Connect With The Penguins!
- The Penguin Cafe Orchestra Website
The official site for PCO. Read about its origin & history, Simon Jeffes and its band members.
- The Unofficial Penguin Cafe Orchestra Site
Neil Leacy created this website in 1994. Lots of useful information, from PCO Genesis to Other Tales.
- Perfect Sound Forever: Imaginary Folklore
Nice article written by Craig Breaden. Through his own views, he comments chronologically on all PCO albums.
- We Were The Medium for His Wildness
The Penguins simply stopped playing after Simon's death, though in recent years there have been private meetings, just for fun. They played in public again because Simon's son Arthur wwanted to honor the 10th anniversary of his father's death.
- Penguin Cafe on My Space
Join the hundreds of fans who are part of this wonderful place. Check out few music samples of this amazing band.
Fans Play PCO - Music for a Found Harmonium
Same Music, Different Styles. Wow!
Where Have All The Fuzzy Penguins Gone? - A Fan Writes a Song Inspired by PCO
I stumbled across this melody one night and thought, "This sounds a bit like The Penguin Cafe..." which is no big surprise since I've been saturated in their music for more than two decades! So I googled 'em up and learned of Simon Jeffes's tragic death. That night I wrote the lyrics. Now, I offer this song as a small token of my thanks and esteem for all the wonderful music Simon and the gang have given us. Thanks also to Cinetech for featuring me on this excellent blog...it's quite an honor! Peter Mickelson
Shout Out For Penguin Cafe Orchestra!
opatoday on February 14, 2013:
Great Lens thanks for sharing
anonymous on June 26, 2012:
Watched Napoleon Dynamite and heard these guys for the first time. Music for a Found Harmonium was played near the end and it was such a brilliant piece of music I checked it out and it led me to your site....Nicely put together mate...Yes I like their music very much.
Lemming13 on February 07, 2012:
Thanks for a lovely lens; I love PCO and so few people seem ever to have heard of them.
anonymous on January 29, 2012:
Does anyone know the rest of Simon Jeffes poem which starts...
'I am the proprietor of the Penguin Cafe, I will tell you things at random'
I can only find the first line, perhaps that is is all which was written down, but I would be very interested to know the rest
pianolessongirl on December 05, 2011:
This is great. Wonderful lens. God Bless!
anonymous on August 30, 2011:
Great site, love PCO and this site is now a favorite, thanks.
anonymous on March 25, 2011:
I like the penguin covers very much.
I wonder if I coul buy some prints or paintings from those album covers?
Ruthi on February 15, 2011:
Great fun! And I enJOYed it so much that I've used your link in my latest lens creation, Lyrical Impressions.
Lisa Marie Gabriel from United Kingdom on February 07, 2011:
Blessed today on my tour through alternative music :)
Parleo on May 22, 2010:
Great lens about a great group. I saw them once in London many years ago. Recently reunited with my CD collection I will be digging their discs out again for another binge.
Frankie Kangas from California on April 28, 2009:
Sound like a cool place. thanks for sharing. Great job on the lens. 5 stars and I'm a FAN! Bear hugs, Frankster aka Bearmeister aka Cat-Woman
anonymous on January 06, 2009:
I am pleased to find fellow fans of the PCO. Their music is amazing, I only wished I had experienced it live.
Is there a concert available on DVD?
anonymous on December 22, 2008:
As a current university student in America, I'm posting here to let you know that this music will not die. I have loved PCO for years and try to tell others about their wonderful music. Thanks for the website!
anonymous on November 01, 2008:
I just wanted to say how happy I am to have found this site. Its good to know other people on the web (up until now I was only aware of the official site and a PCO micro-site) appreciate the penguin cafe orchestra as much as I do. As you stated at the top it will always make you smile =).
anonymous on July 28, 2008:
Heard constantly as a child without understanding. Love now, with a little more understanding. where can i get a recording of the whole bbc concert?
anonymous on June 29, 2008:
Music that never dies
anonymous on May 03, 2008:
I love PCO - saw them on telly loads in the 80's and 90's and being a brighton resident, they were never to far away.....sadly sadly missed,Losing Simon Jeffes,for me,was like when we lost Pete MCarthy..
Cheryl Kohan from England on April 26, 2008:
I loved the YouTube clips. The Prelude and Yodel clip has such beautiful music and a beautiful dancer. Almost meditative. Five stars, no question.
carrieokier on April 23, 2008:
Nice lens! I love music, and am always interested in new avenues. Thank you!
KimGiancaterino on February 21, 2008:
I'm glad to learn about PCO and am anxious to hear their music.
badmsm on January 21, 2008:
What fun! I heard PCO for the first time about 25 years ago. Nice to know they are still around. 5 stars!
anonymous on December 13, 2007:
What is it about this music? What is it that forces you to listen, to come back to it over and over again, and love it as much as you always did? PCO music touches nerves, emotions, desires. It reminds you of love, fun, happiness, but also sadness, death and melancholy. PCO - the music of life.
anonymous on November 24, 2007:
Simon Jeffes is an under appreciated composer/artist. It is great to see some of his closest collaborators get together to play his music. It is the kind of music that seems best if it is heard live. I have tickets for one of the concerts and will travel from Brooklyn to attend.