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Live Review: Tinderbox Orchestra @ The Hidden Door Festival, Edinburgh (04/06/17)


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Tinderbox Orchestra brought the Hidden Door Festival to a close with a phenomenal performance. 

The grass-roots collective consisting of a wide range of ambitious, creative young musicians, artists, youth workers, community activists and volunteers, launched their debut self-titled album with the performance on 4th June.

This year’s festival took place in an exceptionally atmospheric building; the old Leith theatre had not been used for 28 years prior to this but the team managed to carry out a DIY-style renovation, providing an impressive, large and enticing space. 

First song, ‘Aftermath’, the first piece written by one of the orchestra’s own members, cellist Graham Coe, skilfully combined Arabic melody with Western harmony, joined by a rather large sprinkling of heavy rock that came across in perfect measure on the night.

This song was conducted by Farrah Fawcett, a violinist in the orchestra who is only 14 years old.

The next piece ‘Live Free or Die’, allowed the strings to really show through with an anthem that subtly reflected Beirut influences. 

Collaborations are a large part of the band's concept. For this song, Toby Mottershead, a member of The Black Diamond Express, and the composer, were welcomed on stage to sing and play their parts. The tune had such an enthusiasm that even the instrumentalists were dancing every time they had a break. 

Sonia Killmann, an alto sax player, conducted this piece with an alternative flamboyance that really embodied what Tinderbox is all about: a modern orchestra without the stuffy rules of classical music.

‘Captain Beefheart’s Memorial Picnic’ was introduced with a description of “Starvinsky jazz-funk” that raised the audience’s expectations exponentially. The piece, written by Richard Worth, seriously lived up to its intriguing hype. The piece even had a bass drop that had all the members of the orchestra dancing in synchronized knee bouncing.

The set list was interrupted for a few minutes to explain further about the apprenticeship schemes that Tinderbox have available. They played a video which inspired numerous whoops and cheers from the crowd every time they recognised someone they knew. This gig was obviously a personal event, and seemed to achieve a level of success to be proud of.

The next few pieces were aided by the addition of the Dumfries Community Choir, which provided the performance with a fuller sound. Unfortunately, these pieces - especially in their string parts - felt somewhat lost to the volume of the electrics and the acoustics of the building, that due to its lack of recent use may have been misunderstood. 

They saved the first track on their new album ‘Bethany Lane’ for second to last. This piece often described as the 'Tinderbox Anthem' managed to incorporate almost all facets of their work with rappers, a soaring string section and an all-age choir which varies gig to gig but was a great success on this particular night.

After a beautiful rendition of Kathryn Joseph’s work on piano and vocals, the night came to a close with a lengthy thanks and an encore that returned the most popular tune of the night ‘Cas Na Caora’.

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