Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark: The Full-Tone Orchestra get Big, Bold & Russian

By Andy Fawthrop

 

Well – you can never say with any credibility that “nothing ever happens in Devizes”. Spurning the opportunity to listen to the Buddy Holly tribute in the Corn Exchange (even if just to watch Darren become young again), [I do read these Andy, just sayin’!- ED] The Duskers at The Southgate, and The Billy Walton Band at Long Street Blues Club, for reasons that may need to go forever unexplained, last night I found myself sitting in a church (yes – I know) and listening to a 48-piece orchestra. As you do. Something had happened to my musical sensibilities and I’d come over all classical.

The Fulltone Orchestra were in town, conducted by the wonderful Anthony Brown. The theme of the concert was “Big, Bold & Russian” and that was pretty well what we got. Culminating with Tchaikovsky’s splendid “1812 Overture” (complete with the sound of cannons firing – although no actual canons were harmed during the performance – and the crashing of cymbals), we were treated to several Russian pieces. Earlier we’d heard “A Night On The Bare Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky, “In The Steppes Of Central Asia” a symphonic poem by Alexander Borodin, “Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini” by Sergei Rachmaninoff, and “Scheherazade” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Quite a lot to get through, but the performance was excellent.

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The acoustics in the church, with its huge roof-space, meant that the walls of the building fairly vibrated with the brass section in full flow, and the sound of the strings sailed up into the rafters. The noisier sections (famously referred to by Kenny Everett in his heyday as “the bash-y bits”) really took off in these surroundings. The quieter solo sections, however, suffered a little and tended to get a slightly lost at times. However, Dominic Irving’s pieces on piano really shone.

However, bearing in mind that that this is effectively a “scratch” orchestra, only brought together for this one night’s performance and after only about six rehearsals, and that this was the first time that all 48 musicians had been on the same stage at the same time, this was an incredible achievement. Our Tone had worked very hard to bring all this together in just a few weeks and, by and large, pulled it off with aplomb.

Two minor criticisms – it would have been nice to have a programme (so that we knew what we were listening to), and it would have been a good idea to give Our Tone a microphone – some of his introductions were lost to those of us at the back. But these little caveats aside, this was a great performance, a thoroughly enjoyable evening. It did exactly what it said on the tin – it was definitely Big, it was definitely Bold, and it was without doubt Russian!

We’re very lucky to have such an orchestra based in our town, and we really should get behind them and support them. Next up for The Fulltone is the Fulltone Festival in Devizes Market Place on Saturday 20th July, from 2pm to 10pm, where they’ll be giving four (yes – four!) concerts in one day!

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