Putin had a little gun Some vodka and a sock And planned to have a massive wank But couldn't find his cock It never had been very big But now it was so small He couldn't find the fucking thing At all Putin had a little gun Nostalgia and psychosis And rather, so was rumoured round A profound halitosis And everywhere he went he left An atmosphere and smell And a little pile of unused socks As well Putin had a little gun Delusions and an army And plans to overtake the world That were quite frankly barmy He'd always had his issues And been proudly narcissistic But now he couldn't come he went Ballistic Putin had a little gun A lovely shiny table A hidden room in which he liked To dress as Betty Grable A wardrobe full of furry coats And rather fetching hats And an oubliette in which he kept Dead cats Putin had a little gun It really was frustrating 'I only vant' he said, 'to spend My evening masturbating I've fantasies of papering My Betty room with jizz But I don't know where my tiny Penis is' Putin had a little gun Some missiles and some tanks And plans to rule the Western world And crack off lots of wanks The best laid plans of mice and men Can oft go badly wrong Especially when you can't find your Dong Putin had a little gun Some vodka and a sock A nuclear intention And a lot of novichok Some thermobaric weapons That were frighteningly hot And tiny flaccid penis that Was not Putin had a little gun It often is the case That sexual frustration Undermines the human race Humiliate a little man And dare to mock and scoff And he'll soon find something else he can Crack off Putin had a little gun 'I vant to rule the vorld!' He pouted in his mirror With his top lip slightly curled It used to work much better when He dressed as Betty Grable But yet again he found himself Unable © Gail Foster 28th February 2022
There's many ways to win a war. With guns You've got to have the bullets though for those And someone's got to carry them. With tons Of tanks. You got the diesel? Nothing goes Unless there's diesel. Coming in a bit Oh is it? See it come across the bridge That isn't there. With soldiers that are fit For fuck all when there's nothing in the fridge You haven't got. We've got a lot of planes Or will have when we've sorted out the fuel And then we'll soon be splattering your brains And blowing you from here to kingdom come Oh will you now. "Don't shoot! I want my Mum" There's many ways to win a war. With turds Thrown over burning barricades. You got A match? Too fucking right I have. With words You fire them right and you can hit the spot There's other things than bullets make you bleed And other things than bombs to use to teach That woman and the soldier and the seed - In war there's also hearts and minds to reach You take this seed, she said, and when you fall In our dear country, from your lonely grave Will come a bloom so beautiful and tall That no-one will recall the life you gave You're going to blow us all to kingdom come? Oh are you now. "Don't shoot! I want my Mum" There's many ways to win a war. Sun Tzu Had lots to say on strategy, and still He's widely read and what he says is true But these days there are other ways to kill And things that can be done by little men So many ways civilians can play That Sun Tzu didn't know about back then How different a world it is today So many fronts that it's a job to know Which one to fight them on at any time Flak jacket on, my friend, and off you go And I'll stay here and write my little rhyme “They're going to blow us all to kingdom come!” Too right we are. "Don't shoot! I want my Mum" © Gail Foster 26th February 2022
Boris had a little do With biscuits and with cheese As little bits of blossom blew Upon the British breeze It was against the rules but hey As if he gave a toss It was a warm and sunny day And Boris was the boss Be sure your sins will find you out And somebody did tell And everyone began to shout 'What is that horrid smell?' 'It's Boris Johnson's lucky pants He coughed and followed through!' And suddenly the sycophants (Except for one or two Or three or four or five or six) Did hail a passing bus And chucked him under it. Mud sticks And no-one wants a fuss 'Alas poor Boris. Knew him well But didn't want to be Associated with the smell' They said. 'It wasn't me!' Said Boris, bleating like a lamb His back against the wall 'I'll go get Jonathan Van Tam And he'll explain it all' But silence was the stern reply Expedience the crack And so the shit began to fly And Boris got the sack Or did he? Will he? Won't he? What? His fleece is white as snow And even though he's lost the plot There's still the book to go 'It wasn't me!' he said. But there Was no-one left to hear He ran his fingers through his hair And poured another beer And waited for the storm to pass Which only took a while For being of a certain class And of a certain style The shit slid off him easily So shiny was his skin And sure enough and sleazily He slipped his way back in And had another little do With biscuits and with cheese And laughter on the breezes blew All through the London trees And all was well for Boris, hey For no-one gave a toss It was a warm and sunny day And Boris was the boss © Gail Foster 11th January 2022
After the wild success of the Fulltone Festival in Devizes in August and the recent spectacular ‘A Classical Explosion, in Concert’ in Marlborough College Chapel (which earned The Fulltone Orchestra a standing ovation), I thought it was time to ask Anthony Brown, Conductor and Musical Director (and husband, business, and musical partner of the dynamic Jemma Brown), a few questions about where he has come from musically, what makes him tick, and where he intends to go from here.
How did you get here, Tone? Give us a quick musical CV then.
Music is in my blood. My great grandfather was a lay clerk at Canterbury Cathedral for many years and sang in the choir there. When I was 7 I also joined the local church choir and was Head Chorister at 11 or 12. I love church music, it’s such a good grounding in music. Around this time I started studying Flute. I got to my Grade 8 within a few years and then went on to do a Recital Certificate with Trinity College. Throughout my school years I was in school orchestras and wind bands and I also travelled Europe with the Cotswold Flute Choir. I studied A level music which I absolutely loved and still remember these lessons with Richard Stillman, the only other student in the class – ha!
When I was 18 I started teaching flute and conducted the youth version of the Flute Choir for a few months before the real world of work took over.
My biggest life regret is choosing Accountancy over Music.
I kept up my singing though, and sang in various groups, especially Gilbert & Sullivan although my first principal role was in Sweeney Todd in Cheltenham as Tobias. Thereafter I started to do many lead roles, usually romantic tenor leads.
But it wasn’t until I moved to Devizes and helped Jem relaunch TITCO (The Invitation Theatre Company) that I started turning my hand to musical direction. Since then I’ve musically directed Pirates of Penzance, The Hired Man, Into the Woods, War of the Worlds and many other concerts.
What happened that resulted in you starting The Fulltone Orchestra?
I’d been MDing with TITCO for a little while and literally woke up one morning and said to Jem, ‘I want to start an orchestra’. She said ‘OK!’, and the FTO was born!
I plan ahead – I knew I wanted to do Movies first, followed by something with singers, and then something serious. I love all types of music (well, except very heavy metal!) so I’ve set up the FTO so I can do all kinds of genres and nothing is off limits.
Who taught you to conduct and musically direct a large orchestra, Tone?
I’m totally self-taught! I rely on a few people for advice and guidance but most of the time I’m just finding my way – and that’s exciting as well as terrifying! If I were to pick out one person who has influenced me though it would have to be Captain Neil Skipper, Director of Music, Band of the Irish Guards, who is a good friend and mentor and an amazing source of support. He’s taught me so much that I’ve even named one of my orchestral manoeuvres ‘The Skipper Move’!
How many musicians did you have in the orchestra at Marlborough College Chapel?
There were 62 in Marlborough, and there will be 65 in Bath Abbey on November 4th.
How do you decide who plays in which gig – what’s the selection process?
I put a shout out in our Facebook Group of 150 members and ask who’s available and can they attend the rehearsals; I then appoint and recruit for any gaps. It keeps things fresh and also means that people don’t have to commit to every concert.
How do you select the pieces – why did you choose what you chose for the Marlborough concert?
I’m a walking jukebox! I have so many tunes in my head and I’m constantly listening to music. As a rule I play what I love to listen to, there’s no point in doing something you don’t like – the passion won’t transfer to the audience. But it’s the audience I think of – what would they like to hear and what goes well with each piece of music. I knew I wanted to start with the Festive Overture and end with 1812 so I built the programme around that. I always include a couple of pieces that we’ve just done as well as it builds the repertoire and makes our short rehearsal time easier.
What were you thrilled or not thrilled with in Marlborough?
The resonance in the Chapel is difficult to manage and after the afternoon rehearsal I had to cut the Sabre Dance because of it and reduce the tempo down a bit on some numbers. Starting a concert nervous isn’t great but we came through it together by working really hard and listening to each other. Mambo was great fun! And the Adagio was spectacular.
How do you feel the orchestra has progressed since it started in 2017?
We have progressed so much, and it’s with the Strings that you see it the most. We have players coming now from London, Cardiff, and Brighton to play. They wouldn’t keep coming back if they didn’t rate the experience. So my string section is bigger – and size really does matter – but also the quality of the players is top rate. I’ve managed to retain a lot of the good local musicians too, so it really does feel like everybody is coming on a journey with me.
How do you feel about the mix of popular and serious music? Can the orchestra be all things to all men or does the fun stuff take away from the serious stuff? Do people believe that an orchestra who can bang out Born Slippy in the middle of a field (sorry, The Green!) can be up there with old established orchestras? Are you like, ‘Take it or leave it’ when it comes to the FTO?
Music is music – none of us like the same records, we don’t all listen to the same radio station or go to the same concerts. The FTO can totally deliver different kinds of music and it’s important to me that we can be respected for more serious classical music as well as the best of popular music. I do want us to be taken seriously as a symphony orchestra.
What’s the vision, Tone? Where do you want the orchestra to go from here?
It’s all about momentum and rebuilding that up again after losing it during lockdown. The FTO will start stretching its legs to new places further afield and playing to new audiences. Big plans for the next few years.
And lastly, I’ve often wondered – what does conducting an orchestra feel like?
Music is all about emotion and that’s what I love! The first time I stood up to conduct Star Wars in our first concert I do not remember turning the pages, it was surreal, but awesome – I moved my hands and the magic happened!
The FTO don’t rehearse every week, we have a short period of rehearsals before a concert, sometimes only two rehearsals and that creates an energy. I rely on good talented musicians who can turn up and play – my job then becomes one of adding the flare, the dynamics and drawing out of the orchestra the right sound.
I’m like a kid with the best toy ever!
You can see the amazing Anthony Brown and The Fulltone Orchestra in ‘A Classical Explosion, in Concert’ at Bath Abbey on Thursday 4th November 2021, and follow them for more exciting events (including another unmissable Fulltone Festival!) in 2022 and beyond…
Many thanks to Tone for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.
Interview and image of Anthony Brown at Marlborough College Chapel @ Gail Foster 2021
A Classical Explosion at Marlborough College Chapel; a review
It’s been a long road and a wild ride since the Fulltone Orchestra burst on to the Wiltshire music scene with ‘Iconic Tunes – 2017’ at the Corn Exchange, Devizes. Back then conductor and musical director Anthony Brown said – ‘We are not your ordinary orchestra. I set it up to not only bring something a bit different, but with the view to thrill…’
The last time they played in Marlborough College Chapel was in February 2019, when they thrilled the audience with out of this world tunes from The Planets and Star Wars. In July of that year, they transformed the Market Place in Devizes into a riot of colour and sound, and in August of this year they pulled off what seemed at one point to be impossible post-Covid – a two-day festival of classical, house, and big band music on The Green in Devizes.
The Fulltone Orchestra is made up of professional and semi-professional musicians from all over the South-West, and since 2017 has increased in size to 60 – 65 players at any one time. It’s not only the size of the orchestra that has changed; under Anthony Brown’s direction they have become slicker, more skilled, and more able to play increasingly complex and ambitious pieces in accordance with his perfectionism and vision.
On Saturday (16th October 2021) they broke the sacred silence of Marlborough College Chapel with their Classical Explosion Concert, starting with Shostakovich’s Festival Overture, and from then on fireworks and heart strings all the way – Grieg’s ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’, ‘Finlandia’, Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’, ‘Scheherazade’, ‘Mambo!’ from West Side Story – the interval, and then – ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’, Holst, Debussy, ‘A Night On The Bare Mountain’ by Mussorgsky, and ’Suite from the Lord of the Rings’, finishing with the glorious (no cannons allowed in the chapel, though!) ‘1812 Overture’.
This concert was special – whilst the Fulltone Festival was a wonderfully eclectic celebration of music and community, this was a big step up on the classical quality scale. I’ve seen how hard this orchestra rehearse, and the hard work certainly paid off on Saturday. I loved principal violinist Chico Chakravorty’s sensitive and accomplished performance in ‘Scheherazade’ (one of my favourites), likewise Rebecca McGrath’s ethereal harp playing in the same piece. Michelle Krawiec’s flute solo in ‘Suite from the Lord of the Rings’ was magical. I enjoyed ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ (love a bit of percussion) and was surprised to experience what I can only describe as ‘a minor wobbler’ in reaction to the orchestra’s triumphant rendition of ‘Jupiter’.
There were so many surprising and mesmerising moments in this concert. Every time I looked down the dark vault of the Chapel the audience appeared to be transfixed, and after the 1812 Overture they rose as one and gave the orchestra a very well-deserved standing ovation.
I cried with delight and relief at the end, and I wasn’t the only one. The concert was quite simply a massive achievement. Even Tone looked like he had a tear in his eye, but that could of course have been a trick of the light. I had a conversation with a friend along the lines of – ‘That was actually amazing wasn’t it, wasn’t it? Was it?’ ‘Oh yes, yes it was!’, and we had a celebratory hug.
But when you’re emotionally invested in something and not very well musically educated you can never be quite sure of your ability to be objective, so after the concert I asked someone better informed and less emotional than me what they thought of the night.
‘It was enjoyable with a good selection of music’ they said, which believe me from some is praise indeed.
When I reviewed ‘A Night with Bernstein and Gershwin’ back in February 2018 I said that the orchestra were ‘not perfect by any means, but somehow really rather brilliant’. What’s changed since then? The orchestra are still imperfect (is any orchestra ever perfect?) but oh my goodness they are getting even more shiny and brilliant by the moment.
What I also said back then was ‘More, more, more from the Fulltone Orchestra over the next few years, please!’
There’s a lot more to come from this orchestra, and it’s not just about the music – it’s about the story, the energy, the challenge, the community feel, the shared joy amongst the musicians that spills out into the audience.
The Fulltone Orchestra are going places, don’t say I didn’t tell you so. Next stop Bath Abbey on November 4th and then, who knows.
Come and see them for yourself!
Come along for the ride!
Rehearsal image and concert review © Gail Foster 19th October 2021
A reading of a sonnet I wrote in 2018
Go England! ♥
Matt Hancock went down to the shop
With his knob out. ‘It’s OK I’ll pop
A mask on my face
And leave plenty of space
And I’ve got lots of flags on my top’
Matt Hancock, enjoying the breeze
Round his gonads, went round by the cheese
And selected salami
Some gherkins, pastrami
Some wonky bananas, and peas
Matt Hancock then picked up The Sun
And saw he was in it. ‘What fun!
And, may I say
What a glorious day
For getting, er…everything done!’
Matt Hancock skipped out to the car
Where his bird (altogether now, ah!)
Was waiting. ‘It’s hot’
She said, ‘and you forgot
Your trousers again. You’ll go far’
Matt Hancock relaxed in his seat
With his knob out, and put up his feet
On the dashboard. ‘Drive on’
He said, then they were gone
Leaving skidmarks all over the street
© Gail Foster 25th June 2021
(a parody of The Major-General’s Song by Gilbert and Sullivan)
I am the very model of a Police and Crime Commissioner
A Master of the Hunt and a Conservative practitioner
A fine upstanding Councillor and long standing parishioner
Consider me when voting for your next Tory Prime Minister
(Consider him when voting for your next Tory Prime Minister)
I know a man who knows a man who said that it would be OK
Nudge nudge wink wink and say no more and go and do it anyway
I claim the moral high ground but it’s not an easy thing to do
I have to climb a horse so I can see over the top of you
(He has to climb a horse so he can see over the top of you)
I’m very good at plastering my posters over all the land
The farmers in the area all know me well and understand
That I have little time to practice pleasantness or charity
And I consider hunting an acceptable barbarity
(And he considers hunting an acceptable barbarity)
A major in the army once I was but not a general
Some say that my position there may well have been untenable
But here in Wiltshire no-one gives a toss about your history
As long as your rosette is blue the rest may be a mystery
(As long as your rosette is blue the rest may be a mystery)
I’m interested in most matters appertaining to the law
And glad that you have understood exactly what your vote is for
And even though I’ve proved to be entirely unselectable
I’m not at all apologetic that I’m unelectable
(He’s not at all apologetic that he’s unelectable)
Sound the horn the battle isn’t over till the fat boy’s won
I’m not averse to blasting pigs apart and yes I’ve got a gun
And woe betide you if you didn’t buckle down and vote for me
Or worse you are a person who’s inclined to writing poetry
(Or worse you are a person who’s inclined to writing poetry)
In past lives I may well have been on rampages and pillages
And been the subject of some whispered gossip in the villages
But nothing you have ever heard is anything of note to me
As long as you still doff your cap and go along and vote for me
(As long as you still doff your cap and go along and vote for me)
Onwards ever onwards from the Plain and up to Swindon Town
With thousands of my followers all following with noses brown
Be reassured it’s nothing that the Tory party cannot fix
There’s nothing fair in love or war or ever was in politics
(There’s nothing fair in love or war or ever was in politics)
So if you voted for me why I thank you for your interest
And all the pictures posted on the bus stops and on Pinterest
And even though I’m not the new Police and Crime Commissioner
Consider me when voting for your next Tory Prime Minister!
(Consider him when voting for your next Tory Prime Minister!)
© Gail Foster 11th May 2021
I Met A Friend Beside The Cross ~ for Michelle
I met a friend beside the cross
Up on The Green on Easter Day
And she was there to mourn a loss
And I was passing on my way
Now she and I, we only meet
Infrequently throughout the year
But there we were; a meeting sweet
And meaningful, before the dear
Beflowered cross the people made
And posies in all colours bright
Where all day long the people prayed
Or stayed to see the way the light
Did shine upon the Field that day
As shone before high on the hill
And some go on and some will stay
To pray, and will be praying still
And so we spoke, my friend and I
Of love and life, and of her loss
And of the mystery of why
We met together by the cross
And I went on, and left her to
Her sorrow, and when I was gone
She did what she had gone to do
Adore the cross with flowers on
Who knows His ways? Not she or I
But Oh! What beauty was reborn
Up on the Field beneath the sky
Before the cross on Easter morn
© Gail Foster 5th April 2021
In loving memory of Derek, 1932 – 2021, and Pauline North , 1931 – 2021
Two good people from Devizes who loved each other, and who loved to dance
I know what I like, my love
And I like what I see
I wonder if you’d like to take
My hand and dance with me
We’ll marry in September and
Go laughing by the sea
I wonder if you’ll take my hand
My love, and dance with me
We’ll have a little house and make
A home and family
And all of this will come to pass
If you will dance with me
And I will make your flour rise
And puddings that will be
Like honey on your tongue if you
Will come and dance with me
There’s children in the garden, love
So many I can see
And all because you took my hand
And came and danced with me
You were my only love and true
And we’ll forever be
The last ones out there on the floor
You loved to dance with me
I’ll bring you daffodils, my love
And later after tea
I’ll take your hand and then we will
Go dancing, you and me
© Gail Foster 21st February 2021
Family photographs by kind permission of Karen North