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Peggy O'Keefe

inducted 2017 The Arts

About Peggy O'Keefe

1928-2019


Peggy O’Keefe is an eminent Pianist, Bandleader, Television and Radio Presenter who has had a substantial international career.

Margaret Patricia O'Keefe was born on a farm in Wangoom. At school, Peggy was a keen contributor to school concerts, recitals, plays and operettas. “Everything I learned, I learned from St Ann’s and Sr Baptiste.” Peggy comments.
After a good education, both musical and academic, she attended the Melbourne University Music Conservatorium where she studied violin, piano, singing and harp. Whilst there she was a classmate of Douglas Gamely, who also travelled to Britain and found great fame as a pianist, orchestra leader and arranger, most notably arranging the bulk of Dame Joan Sutherland's lighter repertoire.

Before departing Melbourne in 1960, Peggy O'Keefe had already built up a solid reputation as a pianist, appearing on radio broadcasts and working as accompanist to artistes in nightclub cabaret.

After her arrival in London, she picked up where she had left off back in Australia. She had not been in London long before she was playing in jazz trios and quartets in establishments such as The Stork Rooms and The Riverside Club. It was during this spell that she played for - and rubbed shoulders with - artistes like Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Bennett, Dame Cleo Laine, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, and renewed an old and rather special friendship with legendary bass player, Ray Brown.

In 1962 she signed a contract with the Reo Stakis hotel empire and travelled to Glasgow to commence her residency for six months in the Chevalier Casino. That six months eventually became six years, and during this time she presented many series of live music programmes from the casino with guests from the aforementioned list of stars and others, such as Dick Haymes and Mark Murphy.

At this time, Peggy had also been discovered by the BBC and Scottish Television and she went on to present a long list of music programmes both on television and radio right through until the 1980s. She was probably one of the busiest pianists used by the BBC and STV, since - as well as her own programmes - she was acting as a staff pianist, taking responsibility for accompanying auditions, recitals, singers and musicians on entertainment programmes as well as playing piano within most of the BBC's ensembles - from jazz trios, through chamber groups and big bands to the BBC Radio Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. It was often said that you could hardly put on a BBC programme, which included musicians and not see Peggy O'Keefe among them. Peggy has also appeared (as herself) in several films.

Peggy is the mother of Lars Sandberg, better known to techno-rave fans as "Funk d'Void", a best seller techno dj artist who has produced countless albums of the genre, the most famous being "Technoir". On the album "Thank You", his mother played the piano lines on the track "Herbie on Rhodes", making her the oldest female techno recording artiste in the world.

In the later years of her career - after the demise of live musicians and music departments in broadcasting, Peggy kept working in theatre, recital and concert as and accompanist to artistes like Moira Anderson and Kenneth McKellar, as well as keeping her jazz trio going and being involved playing piano and celeste for light music and film music programs by larger orchestras, such as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Gordon Cree Concert Orchestra.
Peggy attributes her career to her foundation years in South West Victoria saying “It’s all to do with how you were brought up and how you were educated. I think very highly of my time at St Ann's.”

Following an unsuccessful knee operation in 2004, during which she contracted a superbug and internal infection in the joint, she was not mobile enough to be able to continue to work. Peggy went on to live a quiet life in Glasgow, Scotland, where she passed away peacefully on 31st March, 2019.Peggy passed away peacefully in Glasgow on 31st March 2019.
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Peggy O'Keefe

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