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Original Works by Tony Castro, commissioned by Thanet Big Sing Community Choir

Compendium of Works

Performed at Turner Contemporary 2018 to 2022

The Thanet Big Sing Community Choir is proud to have commissioned the choir’s resident Music Director, Tony Castro, to compose, arrange and curate a series of bespoke works for the choir.  Being the resident choir at Turner Contemporary (the only art gallery in the UK to have a resident choir), the inspiration for these works draws upon a range of rich, creative sources including Turner Contemporary exhibitions, national events, local history, and contributions from members of the choir.  

The following is examples of commissioned works to date.

Lost & Found (World premiere April 2022)

The most recent commission by The Thanet Big Sing Choir, ‘Lost & Found’ for community choir and orchestra, is Tony Castro’s third large-scale original work for the choir, following “On the Tram” (2018), and “Oh I Do Like to Be” (2019), those works being choral responses to exhibitions at Turner Contemporary (Journeys with the Wasteland, and Seaside Photographed, respectively).  While Lost & Found also took its initial inspiration from the proposed 2020 exhibition, Disappointed Tourist, the intervening Covid-19 pandemic created a different context in which the work evolved. 

Written in part during the Covid-19 pandemic, Lost & Found reflects on how change (loss) can impact on our sense of self and well-being and nurture a life-affirming sense of hope (found).

In writing Lost & Found, Tony Castro sought to capture something of how loss affects people differently while re-affirming a sense of resilience, positivity, and hope; ‘life goes on’. Five choral portraits of ‘things lost’ (places, people, nature, memory, loved ones), linked by short narrative passages and framed by emotionally charged bookends provide an uplifting expression of people’s capacity for resilience, renewal, and hope in the face of adversity.

Due to Covid Pandemic, the choir was unable to perform for 2 years

‘Oh, I Do Like to Be’ (World premiere July 2019)

Commissioned by The Thanet Big Sing Choir, this work formed part of Turner Contemporary’s exciting 2019 exhibition, “Seaside Photographed”

‘Oh, I do like to be’ (original words and music by Tony Castro) draws on the relationship between photographers, photography, and the British seaside from the 1850s to the present, as explored through what was Turner Contemporary’s first ever photography exhibition (2019).

Accompanied by small orchestra, a narrator/actor reading passages from local seaside stories based on choir members’ anecdotes and experiences, and projected photographs and images sourced from choir members’ own archives, the five original songs of ‘Oh, I do like to be’ combine to create a rich aural and visual picture of a day at the Thanet seaside. 

A performance of music and readings to commemorate the end of the Great War – (October 2018)

This concert reflected the humour and pathos of ordinary soldiers in the trenches, as well as giving voice to families back in “Blighty”: much of the material for the compositions and arrangements was drawn from or commenting on the period and referred to the relevance of local area at that time.  There was a combination of specially arranged choral works, songs, and readings.

The spoken elements were drawn from archival materials, first-hand accounts, and contemporary reflections on the Great War, using Thanet-relevant accounts wherever possible. Research sources included Margate museum, Westgate on Sea Historical Society and similar local community archives. The sung material, original and curated, connected with the spoken words to create a holistic sonic picture of a community coping with war.

A set of moving photographs sourced from local photographers and county wide archives together with those provided by choir members was shown on a large screen as a backdrop to the concert and each photograph was relevant to the songs and narration given.

On the Tram to the Nayland Rock (World premiere April 2018)

‘On the Tram to Nayland Rock’ for community choir and orchestra, (music and lyrics by Tony Castro) formed part of Turner Contemporary’s well-reviewed 2018 exhibition, Journeys with the Waste Land, which drew on many elements of T.S. Eliot’s seminal work, The Waste Land, part of which was written in the Nayland Rock shelter, Margate in 1921.  ‘On the Tram to Nayland Rock’ is an imagined soundscape of a tram ride from T.S. Eliot’s hotel in Cliftonville to the shelter at Nayland Rock. Comprised of five songs linked by a through narrative, ‘On the Tram’ paints an aural picture of the sound world Eliot might have experienced, remembered, or imagined on his journey, while also exploring the poet’s imagined thoughts and emotions.  The choir subsequently performed the work in London as part of the South Bank Centre’s 2018 ‘Chorus’ event.

One day I will leave here (World premiere January 2012)

In 2021, the Choir commissioned Tony Castro to compose the music for a choral setting of Lemn Sissay’s poem ‘Margate Moon’.  The choir performed the subsequent song, One day I will leave here, as part of Lemn Sissay’s performance of poems at St Nicholas Wade and Turner Contemporary, the latter including projections of the words on the outside wall of the Turner Contemporary building.