The Fulltone goes BIG!

The F.T.O. Big Band at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon. 21/11/2021

Ian Diddams

The Fulltone Orchestra (a.k.a. FTO) was formed back in 2017, the vision and brainchild of its Musical Director, Anthony Brown. Since then, the orchestra has performed across Wiltshire playing a wide genre of orchestral based music, from iconic movie themes to Bernstein and Gershwin, then Russian composers and The Planets, and most recently a firework extravaganza of classical music (with no actual fireworks folks!).  Then there has been its involvement with “The Invitation Theatre Company” (a.k.a. TITCo) with the inaugural, and this year’s “Fulltone Festivals”, and the incredible “Jeff Wayne’s Musical version of the War Of The Worlds” reprised in 2019 in Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre.
And of course the amalgamation of choirs in Devizes for the poignant and beautiful “Armed Man” by Karl Jenkins.

For these performances the FTO has fluctuated in size of orchestra depending on requirements – musicians coming from all over Southern England, and even have included a passing Hungarian cellist. Anthony’s vision always seeks the next, exciting opportunity and this year has seen the birth of the “FTO Big Band”. Cutting its teeth at the “Fulltone Festival” on August bank holiday weekend 2021, now the FTO took its latest progeny back to the Wyvern for its “Big Band Night” on Sunday 21st November.

And what a night it was! Five saxophones (also doubling up on clarinet and flute), four trombones, four trumpets, drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards joined by three female and three male voices crooned and smoothed and belted their way through a cornucopia of delights.   From Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller (who else for a big band night after all?!) to Ella Fitzgerald, Julie Garland and Jackie Wilson numbers. And that was just the first half! The second half kicked off with “The Pink Panther” and “Big Spender” and crooned away deliciously after that with Frank Sinatra, more Judy Garland and even a spot of Marilyn Monroe.

The band, as ever with the FTO, was absolutely spot on. The ever-present Dominic Irving this time left his keyboard and violin at home and whipped out his trumpet (oo err missus!). Louise Cox a persistent FTOer on the drums was her usual impeccable, percussive self. Devizes born and bred Archie Combe tinkled the ivories (I played rugby with his dad y’know!), and Vickie Watson amazed in her juggling of sax, clarinet, and flute throughout the entire show. But its churlish to only mention a few by name, where in fact the entire band were simply amazing. A whole bunch of horns and sax appeal for sure for starters!

And the singers? Well…  I guess they did all right…  😉  Truth be told – of course they were brilliant. Confession time – for those that don’t already know, these people are my friends, and I am honoured to stand on stages with them often. So you can understandably think now “oh well, sycophancy rules, OK” at this juncture. But – everything I write here is true. These people WERE amazing tonight. Truly awesome. Jemma Brown with her consummate ease of poignancy in such numbers as “Ole’ Devil called Love” to power in “Big Spender” and Chris Worthy similarly between “Nightingale sang in Berkley Square” to “Reet Petite”. Then of course Sean Andrews, well known for his strength of projection unsurprisingly absolutely creaming “Luck be a Lady” …  but showing a crooning side with “Come Fly with me”. Then there’s Will Sexton. Well, if you’ve never heard Will you bloody well should. And if you have you will know there are insufficient superlatives available. He calmly, coolly, sang his way through “Blue Moon”, broke hearts with “My Girl” and finished us all off with “Cry Me a River”.

But these were not alone on the stage…  enter stage right Ella Mangham. WHAT A VOICE. Made for this style of music, “Black Coffee” and “Fascinating Rhythm” held us spell bound. Ella had debuted with the FTO Big Band back in the summer, but tonight saw the first appearance of a super young lady – Ruby Phipps. Now Sean had clearly bought his fan club with him as we heard when introduced, but Ruby had family and friends travelling from all over – and no surprise. Sublimely duetting with Jemma on “Get Happy”, “Over the Rainbow” and “The Trolley Song” she lit up the stage with her excellence and grace. Then the whole group appeared as Will completed the evening with – what else? – “My Way” and joined in…  showing that the FTO Big Band truly did this THEIR way, in style, panache and not a little excellence.

What a night. But there’s one more person that deserves a HUGE pat on the back. I’ve mentioned this entire project, from orchestra to big band spin off, is the brainchild of Anthony Brown. But Anthony (a.k.a. O.T but never EVER call him “Tony” !!!) is more than just a M.D. (a.k.a. Musical Director). He is the passion, the life force, the visionary that has produced an orchestra that dares, and now a Band that is truly BIG. He AM da MAN.

So – if you were there tonight and saw it, how lucky were we? And if you weren’t or think I’m just a sycophant for my raving review all I can say is – my eighty-four-year-old mum absolutely loved it. And get a ticket for the next Big Band night and make up your own mind!

Meanwhile – live music is back. And don’t you forget it!


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REVIEW – TITCO’s Switch The Lights Back On! @ The Wharf Theatre, Devizes – Tuesday 9th November 2021

TITCO Hit the Ground Running

Andy Fawthrop

That’s it – the set is now complete!  Back in August we had the Fulltone Orchestra striking up once again after a long enforced lay-off.  In September Devizes Musical Theatre shyly peeked out from behind the showbiz curtain.  October saw White Horse Opera step out onto the stage, and now, in November, TITCO have finally switched on the lights back on!  And what a delight it was to have them back, completing the fantastic range of local music offerings based in D-Town.

Switched from the earlier venue of St Mary’s to the, perhaps more suitable, surroundings of the Wharf Theatre, TITCO hit the stage with their presentation “Switch The Lights Back On”.  From Chris Worthy’s opening number of “Wilkommen” from Cabaret, right through to the closing ensemble rendition of The Proclaimers’ “Over And Done With” we had a fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable evening.

The two-hour programme included songs from Cabaret, Cats, Jesus Chris Superstar, Sunset Boulevard, School of Rock, Joseph, Spamalot, Billy Elliot, Les Miserables, Hamilton, Once, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and Sunshine on Leith.  The numbers chosen were not always the usual ones from those shows, not always the obvious biggest “hits” that one would normally think of, but great songs nevertheless.  The items chosen, and the sequence of those songs, nicely showcased the individual talents of the cast members, giving most of them at least one solo, with duets and ensemble numbers.  It certainly worked for me.

The staging was simple and sparse, allowing the music to do all the talking.  Dressed all in black, with little in the way of colour or props to distract the eye, the songs were completely to the front.  Musical accompaniment was understated, but absolutely spot-on, provided by Dominic Irving on keyboard, Lou Hewitt on bass, and Becky Nottingham on percussion.  And in front of them, although it’s always a little unfair to single out particular individuals, the stars of the night (for me at least) were Chris Worthy, Mari Webster, Matt Dauncey and Jemma Brown.  But there were strong performances all round.  And I also have to give a special mention to our local Fulltone Orchestra musical arranger and baton-wielder, Anthony Brown.  I’m so used to seeing him from the back conducting his orchestra, that I’d almost forgotten what he looked like, and that he has a wonderful voice!  Respect!

The show’s finale consisted of three songs from “Sunshine On Leith”, the musical by Stephen Greenhorn, based on the music of The Proclaimers, a fitting trailer for the full-length production which will take place at St Mary’s, Devizes next June 2022.

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable show.  Full disclosure – I’m not the greatest fan of musicals – but even I couldn’t help but warmly applaud this splendid show.  And I was in good company – the audience throughout was loud and enthusiastic in their well-deserved rounds of applause.

The show runs through to Saturday 13th November, and I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending that you get along and see it.  There are still a few tickets left (but not many!) – I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed, and that you’ll have a great night out.  Trust me!


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Spoiled Rotten in Devizes this November with Devizes Arts Festival, The Wharf Theatre, Long Street, TITCO, DOCA and more!

Spoiled Rotten in Devizes this November you are. In what is usually a quiet month leading up to yule, the easing of lockdown has detonated the month, opening it up as anyone’s game. It’s just so good to see a chockful event calendar for the whole county, and so many event organisers making a Rocky Balboa style comeback.

Dave and Deborah at the Southgate

Aside our dependable Southgate, who’ve led the way for events in Devizes, and continue to provide top notch live music every weekend, free I might add, it’s exciting to see the Cavalier, The Muck & Dundar, and even the Condado Lounge in the running.

There are some big guns coming out too, as we welcome back the Wharf Theatre, who hosted The Paul Simon Story last weekend, and the return of the Invitation Theatre Company from Tuesday (9th) to Saturday (13th) this coming week. The Long Street Blues Club are back in force with three gigs this month, the Gerry Jablonski Band Saturday 13th, Force on the 20th, which is such a whopper it’s coming out of The Corn Exchange rather than usual Cons Club, and the Antonio Forcione Quartet on the 27th.

If it’s sounding good so far, we’ve not even touched on Devizes Eisteddfod from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th, The Lawrence Art Society’s exhibition at the Town Hall from 25th to the 27th, and of course DOCA bring the Winter Festival and lantern parade on the 26th.

With all that I’ve mentioned it would be understandable to have overlooked the icing on the cake; Devizes Arts Festival surprisingly pops up to host some awesome events this month, when it’s usually confined to more summery months. Despite we’ve outlined the individual gigs lined up at the Arts Festival, back when it was announced in August, such has lockdown caused much jiggery-pokery with the dates of such things, and not forgoing I’d suspect the Arts Festival got itchy fingers and simply couldn’t wait until summertime to present us with some amazing performances, these things need reminders, so here I am!

Though the opening gig, Thursday’s Ronnie Scott’s All Stars Jazz Club Tour has sold out, tickets for the others are on the table awaiting your attention, plus, of course there’s free fringe events across town too. Let’s have another look at what’s on offer here, to wet your appetite shall we?

Under the banner, “the show must go on,” the Arts Festival are delighted to welcome Sally Barker to Devizes, on the 13th. In this new show ‘Sandy, Joni & Me’ she will bring some of the songs of both Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny to the stage, exploring the singer/songwriter legacy that was forged in the early ’70s.

Veteran folk-blues singer/songwriter Sally Barker became Tom Jones’ finalist on The Voice UK 2014 after reducing her mentor, and many watching the TV, to tears with her performances. Sally has toured with Sir Tom, Bob Dylan and Robert Plant amongst others. Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans said, “Sally changes the atmosphere in a room when she sings.”

And Friday 19th is Motown Gold time at the Corn Exchange. Dust off your dancing shoes for a fabulous evening from a fantastic band. Motown Gold celebrate the finest songs from the timeless Motown and Classic Soul era, which kind of speaks for itself.

As for free Fringe events, The Muck & Dundar have loop pedal guru Arif Najak bringing laid-back reggae sounds on Friday 12th. Sunday 14th is at New Society, where you’ll find Bristol’s dynamic jazz vocalist Lucy Moon, performing energetic swing and classic swing-era tunes to liven up your Sunday lunchtime. Booking is essential for this one, contact New Society to reserve your table.

There’s a couple more fringe events before the Arts Festival’s grand Motown finale; South Wales’s Big Sky are at The Crown on Wednesday 17th, with roots rock infused with touches of blues, country and psychedelia, they are known for being one of the few bands containing brothers who have not yet had an on-stage altercation! And Thursday 18th sees Mark Harrison at the Three Crowns. An original and interesting songwriter, a stunning guitarist, and a master storyteller.

It is, in all my years of running Devizine, the biggest November I’ve ever seen! But the Devizes Arts Festival doesn’t stop there, this is just filling a gap. I asked artistic director Margaret Bryant if there will be something in the pipeline for a summer arts festival too, and she replied “yes, we’re already planning 2022!”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, just look forward to November; get your Devizes Arts Festival tickets here, for all other gigs and events, see our event calendar for links and info; see you out and about, folks!


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TITCO & Full Tone do Christmas

The Invitation Theatre Company presents an evening of Christmas music, featuring the Fulltone Music School Voices, and we all love Christmas music, at Christmas that is! Fortunately, it’s on 14th December at St Johns Church, which is plenty time to wash the Christmas jumper and check the reindeer nose lights still work from where you spilt eggnog down it last year.

Tickets available online and Devizes Books, are £6, raising money for Frontline Children and Action for Children. “Each year,” TITCO elucidate, “is a sumptuous evening of music, from classical pieces through to popular Christmas toe tappers – brought to you by the most wonderful singers! It’s just the BEST evening!”


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