Toni Castells is a composer and academic based in London. He graduated top of his year in Telecommunications and Electronic Engineering at La Salle Barcelona (BEng/MEng) in 1999. He graduated in Music Business Management (MA) at the University of Westminster in 2006 and holds a Certificate in Teaching and Learning (CASLAT) by Imperial College. He lectures Sound Technology and Music Technology at Imperial College London and the UWL, specialising in acoustics and composition.
B E G I N N I N G S
Born in Berga near Barcelona (Spain), Hispano-British musician and composer Toni Castells took up music at the age of 4, studying classical guitar and clarinet as main instruments, teaching himself also to play the piano. He went on to study at the Conservatori Municipal de Música de Barcelona, winning the coveted St. Joan de Vilatorrada Composition Prize with his duet 'Imatges' for flute and piano aged 14. By that time he had already started his first symphonic rock band with local friends, Herzia, in which he played the keyboards. After 10 years of demo-making and playing concerts all over the Catalan territory, they signed a record deal with AZ Records in 1998. Their debut album 'Coses que Passen' (AZ Records 1999) was named best Catalan rock album of 1999 by specialised music magazine Popular 1.
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In 2000 Toni moved to London to work with Spanish pop legend José María Cano from 80s Spanish pop band Mecano, with whom he recorded José María's first solo album after the split of Mecano, 'Josecano' (Muxxic 2001) and which whom he also had the opportunity to work with tenor Plácido Domingo recording the Centenary Anthem for Real Madrid CF in 2002. At the same time Toni had secured a job as an Assistant Recording Engineer at the Royal College of Music, where he has the opportunity to work and record with conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Bernard Haitink and Roger Norrington.
In 2004 Toni starts writing music again fusing the two musical strands that had run in parallel all this life, western classical tradition and popular music. He takes particular interest in the female operatic voice and downtempo electronic beats. The first result of this experimentation is the self-released album 'Unharmed' (2006). The album featured the vocalises of New Zealander soprano Amelia Whiteman together with the husky vocals of Spanish singer Elisabeth Rodergas (better known as Beth), who had represented Spain at Eurovision in 2003 finishing in eighth position and who famously Terry Wogan referred to as the "Kylie Minogue in dreadlocks". The album also featured Dublin-born singer Roberta Howett, finalist in the first edition of The X-Factor in 2004 and who was mentored by Sharon Osbourne. It also featured singer Fran Hardcastle. 'Unharmed' reached the iTunes Top 20 download charts on its release.
The following year Toni self-produced a live show adapting the music of 'Unharmed'. It premiered in Bush Hall in collaboration with the acclaimed Sacconi Quartet and British visual artist and photographer Conor Masterson. During 2007-2009 Toni toured the show through the UK and Spain in collaboration with Icelandic visual artist and photographer Maria Kjartansdottir.
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By then Toni had started what would become a life-long collaboration with American soprano Rebecca Nelsen, lead soprano at the Vienna Volksopper and named "a star" by the Wall Street Journal. Rebecca sung two of Toni's most iconic and critically acclaimed albums, 'Creation' (2011) and 'Slaves of Time' (2016).
'Creation' (2011) was adapted for the live stage in the form of 'Life from Light' (2012), which premiered at Union Chapel in London featuring Roberta Howett, prize-winning British soprano Susan Jiwey, British countertenor Oliver Gerrish and video artist Thomas Yeomans.
Funded by the Arts Council England and in collaboration with Tete-a-Tete Opera, 'Life from Light' was readapted for a run at Kings Place in 2014, filling out Hall One in two consecutive nights. The performances featured Roberta Howett, Oliver Gerrish, British soprano Meeta Raval, finalist in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in 2011, crossover British soprano Camilla Kerslake and Cuban jazz trumpeter Yelfris Valdes.
'Slaves of Time' (2012) was adapted for the live stage in the form of '2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal' (2016), which premiered at St. James's Piccadilly and was later performed in Cowdray House. The performances featured Oliver Gerrish, Meeta Raval, Alexandra Kennedy, Helios Voices and the acclaimed Aquinas Piano Trio. His latest work ‘Hhumann X’ (2018) is an exploration of social isolation in an era of technological hyper-connectedness. The piece was premiered at LSO St. Luke’s on the 20th of October 2018 to a sold-out audience and was received with a standing ovation. It featured More Than Just a Choir, a community choir based in North London that works with people suffering from mental illness and social isolation. They were supported by a 10-strong ensemble including Grammy-Award nominated pianist José Menor, Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice violinist Harriet MacKenzie and sopranos Honey Rouhani and Vanessa Bowers. The piece and its premiere gained lots of media attention from the BBC, London Live and the Telegraph amongst others.
C O L L A B O R A T I O N S
Toni has also collaborated in a variety of projects with crossover artists Hayley Westenra, Noah Stewart and Laura Wright. Through 2017 and 2018 Castells starts a writing collaboration with British singer-songwriter Catty Pearson, co-writing some of the songs of her 2018 independently released debut EP ‘Time Tells Me’. The EP was produced by Chris Kimsey, best known for his work producing the Rolling Stones, and recorded at legendary Olympic Sound Studios.
In January 2019 Toni collaborates with British fashion designer Liam Hodges to provide the soundtrack of Hodge’s presentation at London Fashion Week of his 2019 Fall/Winter collection entitled ‘Mutations in the 4th Dimension’.
During 2019 Toni collaborates with artist Cyril de Commarque creating the soundscape for his multi-media installation ‘Artificialis’. As part of its special Artist-In-Residency programme, the Saatchi Gallery presented the piece alongside another multi-media installation by Kate Daudy both created as a response to 'Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh', which will be displayed at Saatchi Gallery for six months from November to May 2020. Both artists invite the viewer to contemplate notions of legacy and transition. Before coming to London, 'Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh' attracted more than 1.3 million visitors in Paris, becoming the most-visited exhibition in French history.