Bar interior with grand piano and black and white photography
In conversation with

Our legendary pianist returns to Hotel Bel-Air

November 02, 2022

Antonio Castillo de la Gala, our beloved pianist, is one of the reasons our Bar & Lounge remains the central hub for the local Bel-Air community. As we celebrate his long-awaited homecoming, find out what it means to him to return.
Piano player at Hotel Bel-Air Bar

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Veracruz, Mexico and graduated as a concert pianist from the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City. After a career as concert pianist in my home country, I moved to the United States where I began playing piano in luxury hotels and restaurants. My first job in Beverly Hills was at the Polo Lounge in 1983, and I played there for nine years. After a stint at L’Orangerie, I started playing at Hotel Bel-Air in 1997.

Who inspired you to play music?

According to my parents, I started showing an interest in the piano in our living room when I was just three years old. My grandmother became my first piano teacher, and the movies my parents took me to see about the lives of Chopin, Liszt, Eddy Duchin and Liberace fuelled my passion for music.

How does it feel to be back at Hotel Bel-Air?

Wonderful, it feels like returning home. I’ve had so many incredible experiences here behind the piano in the Bar & Lounge that it really does feel like my second home, especially when I see so many familiar faces around me.

What did you miss most?

The elegant ambience, our wonderful guests, walking through the beautiful gardens on my way to work and, of course, crossing over Swan Lake.

Booth overlooking garden
Hotel Bel-Air Bar and Lounge Patio

What is your favourite song to perform?

This a tough question as I play more than 2,000 songs and love so many of them. If I have to pick one though, ‘Somewhere in Time’ is very special to me and linked to lots of good memories – that’s what music does for you.

How does Hotel Bel-Air compare to other venues?

Hotel Bel-Air is unique, completely different from all the other great venues that I’ve played at. It feels like I’m performing on an exclusive island, sheltered away from the roar of the city.

What’s your favourite music genre?

I’m a romantic pianist, that’s my kind of music. The timeless songs of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Henry Mancini, A.L Webber and Michel Legrand are what I enjoy most. When I need to get a crowd going though there’s always one song I turn to and that’s, ‘New York, New York’.

Tell us one of your best-loved stories?

A few years ago, the night before the Oscars, a guy came up to my piano and asked me if I would mind playing some duets with him. I turned round and saw to my amazement that it was Billy Joel, so I said, “Of course!” We played music from the movies for over an hour and a half – I loved it and the audience did too.

Bar at Hotel Bel-Air featuring iconic oversized celebrity photographs

Next time you’re at Hotel Bel-Air, why not stop by our Bar & Lounge for a cocktail or two and a chance for Antonio to share his love of music with you.

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