- Saturday, June 22nd: Australia – FireworX by Ian Riedel
Theme: Magic of the movies
Description: Tribute to great movie music composers
- Friday, June 28nd: England – Merlin Fireworks
Theme: It must be love
Description: A pyromusical tale of the oldest storyline in the world
- Friday, July 5th: Hong Kong/China – Vulcan Fireworks
Theme: Born to be Wild
Description: The rock era revisited with the intensity of contemporary pyrotechnics
- Friday, July 12th: Spain – Zaragozana
Theme: Languages of Love
Description: Love, amour, amor, amore… love has no boundaries!
- Saturday, July 20th: United States – Arthur Rozzi Pyrotechnics Inc.
Theme: Swan Lake
Description: A pyromusical ballet featuring Tchaikowsky’s masterpiece
- Wednesday, July 24th: Croatia – Mirnovec Pirotehnika.
Theme: Artificial Intelligence
Description: When a computer takes control of human intelligence
- Saturday, July 27th: Canada – Garden City Display Fireworks
Theme: Four Seasons
Description: Our four seasons through the eyes of a child
- Wednesday, July 31st: Italy – Pyroemotions & Pyrodigit Team
Theme: Jukebox Memories
Description: A trip down memory lane
- Saturday, August 3rd: La Ronde – Panzera S.A.S.
Theme: Tribute to U2
Description: 2013 Grand Finale featuring music from this world renowned Irish band
Hommage to Queen – soundtrack by Paul Csukassy, fireworks design Pierpaolo Serafino
- Don’t Stop Me Now
- Long Away
- Leaving Home Ain’t Easy
- Crazy Little Thing Called Love
- Keep Yourself Alive
- Seven Seas Of Rhye
- Now I’m Here
- Stone Cold Crazy
- Death On two Legs
- Tie Your Mother Down
- We Will Rock You (Live at Wembley)
- Hammer To Fall (Headbanger Mix)
- Princes Of The Universe
- I Want It all
- I Can’t Live With You
- The Party
- One Vision (Extended Vision)
- The Prophet Song
- Teo Torriatte
- Fat Bottomed Girls
- Bicycle Race
- Good Old-Fashoned Loverboy
- Somebody To Love
- Save Me (Live)
- Play The Game
- Killer Queen
- Bohemian Rhapsody
- Show Must Go On
- We Are The Champions
Designed by Stephen Pelkey and Matt Shea. Pyrodigital firing with 430 16-cue modules, PyroMate NightHawk firing with 29 45-cue modules. VisualShowDirector scripting with 7396 cues
The Atlas press released promised thunder and lightning and so mother nature cooperated. For only the second time this year, we had to watch the radar before heading to La Ronde as ominous clouds gathered. About 15 minutes before show time, lightning was seen above downtown Montreal, though no thunder was heard. Despite a few tiny sprinkles at one point during the show, the weather remained dry. The only unfortunate aspect was that the wind direction shifted by 180 degrees literally seconds before the display stared, ensuring the smoke and debris were directed at the audience at La Ronde. Fortunately the wind was strong enough such that the smoke didn’t accumulate too much and spoil the display.
One other thing of note, before my review-proper, is that both the opening and closing competitors this year had the largest cue counts and most one-shots.
The display began quite dramatically after the 1 minute 22 second narration was over (though there nice bengal and strobe stick effects during this). I’m not a big fan of narrative elements so was grateful that this was the only one in the display. Fairly quickly we got to see fantastic sequences of one-shots and bombettes during the Toccata segment. The go-getter shells fitted well with the music too and the audience reaction was very enthusiastic.
There were interesting firing patterns in the Nutrocker segment with ramp 3 divided into sections to good effect – though on the parts where piano notes were synchronized to the shots, it would have been even more effective to have the position of the shots correspond to the position of the notes on the keyboard! All that said, this was a really well done segment as was the Night on Bare Mountain one.
Shell selections were interesting during the display, with some particularly nice farfalles and shells in the shape of butterflies. The lauded ghost shell effects (where a wave of colour sweeps over a shell’s stars) were not too effective, though, since too many were fired at once as well as other shells which really made the effect hard to discern. I was also surprised that there was a fair bit of repetition of effects (notably the farfalles, but with some other shells too). This was a bit surprising and did detract from the overall design of the show in my opinion.
Ramp 5 was used and the effects on it were good, giving the impression of great height, but the firing angles used made it sometimes difficult to really know that it was ramp 5 and not ramp 3 being used. One of the photographers asked me afterwards “how come they didn’t use ramp 5″, but I pointed out that “they had”. This is always a challenge with this extra set of pontoons close to the audience: how to use them to present something different. To be fair, Atlas did have fireballs fire on these, but there was so much else going on in the sky that these weren’t too obvious and they weren’t particularly large.
One negative aspect of using so many one shots is that, because of the way the angles were set up (either vertical or in V patterns), the range of effects produced was somewhat limited. Because of the the calibre of the products, there was less “dynamic range” than there would have been with, say, 4″ mines added into the mix. As much as the one-shot sequences were good, once we’d seen a few different ones, there was nothing left to give any additional WOW factor. I also noted that the synchronization, though good and consistent, was just off by a fraction of a second. Maybe this was due to the distance I was from the sound system – perhaps further back (with a longer audio delay) it was right on. From my vantage point, the one-shots in the Vaccalluzzo show had the best synchronization of the entire competition this year.
The finale was good, but not quite as good as I expected as I was disappointed to see the same shells used again that had been used earlier. The vaunted pyroarch give some good effects but I would have enjoyed them more had the arch been a true semi-circle. As it was, the angles ranged from about 45 degrees to vertical. There were some good nauticals at the end and, of course, these would have been nice to have at other points during the display but, of course, ramp 5 precluded this (though they all exploded quite a long way away – so it might have been OK). Due to the smoke, it was hard to see the effect of the special salutes, though the apotheosis of the display was good and loud.
All in all, it was an excellent display and good use was made of the sky. The one-shot sequences were good, but the restricted range of angles meant that the display wasn’t quite as “wide” as some of the others this year and the calibre of the devices did limit the dynamic range a bit. The capacity audience certainly enjoyed the display and it must surely stand an excellent chance of a Jupiter this year.
I met with Stephen Pelkey and Matt Shea, joint designers of Atlas Pyrovisions Productions, and representing the United States for the third time, their previous displays being in 1995 and 2003. The company was established in 1979 with Stephen taking over in 1986 after returning from miltary service. At the time, the company was putting on around 80 diplays per year; now they are the largest display operator in New England, headquartered in Jaffrey, NH, and now putting on over 800 displays per year. Stephen noted that his daughters now work for the company.
This display is the most complex Atlas have ever designed and will hold the record for the largest number of cues ever fired in Montreal. Initially they had scripted it at 8000, but with careful editing thanks to the use of VisualShowDirector, the final cue count is 7396. It is being fired with 430 FM16 16-cue firing modules as well as twenty nine 45-cue modules in the PyroMate NightHawk line. The PyroDigital setup will be using Patrice Guy’s wireless interface, intelligent splitter and IsoBoost system as well as five field controllers (with 2 extras as backup).
In terms of pyrotechnic material, manufacturers of shells include Vincente Caballer of Spain, Vulcan, Sunny and Ang Ping of China as well as an American manufacturer, Grand Fireworks of New York, who produced special crossettes and salutes laced with a special type of titanium. Low level effects are from Vincente Caballer and Vulcan for outdoor material and a lot of indoor specialFX from Western Enterprises, NextFX and Vulcan – most of which will be used on ramp 5. Ramp 4 will include a special “pyro arch” that features 15 firing positions and almost 800 cues! I noticed some large mines on ramp 2 and Stephen told me these are 6″ studata mines! Stephen said he’s not a big fan of nautical effects – and ramp 5 often precludes large calibre devices – but he said he had decided to bombard the lake once ramp 5 was no longer needed. For aficionados of large shells, there will be seven 12″, around thirty 10″ and seventy eight 8″.
For the design of the show, Stephen and Matt both worked on the music selection as well as the scripting, spending a total of nine months. They entered the script and then used VisualShowDirector to refine it – Matt flying to Seattle to spend time with Infinity Visions head honcho, Alberto Navarro (whose company produce VSD). Matt noted that the used of VSD allowed them to refine the show and perfect the angles and effects they wanted to achive. He also noted that, with 21 positons on ramp 3, they were planning to do some interesting effects where the ramp is subdivided into 3 sub-sections that can play with each other.
The music is based on the Disney Classic, be re-worked with a modern twist. Both designers noted that it’s important to achieve a WOW factor and that the Montreal audience, having witnessed so many displays, makes this hard to achieve, but they would try their best. The theme of the display is that of a pyrotechnic apprentice putting on their first display in Montreal, giving a pyrotechnic twist to the classic Disney tale. Stephen noted in a press handout that:
The design we are seeking is to parallel the story of Fantasia, capturing the similarities of a young pyrotechnic choreographer whose dream is to achieve the ultimate prize of mastering his skills of music, design and pyro-orchestration…the ultimate achievement is what we thought to be as “Thunderstruck” which of course is a play on words with our intro for the Grand Finale.
Stephen said he’d been disappointed not to win a prize in 2003, but enjoyed the challenge of competing in Montreal and so had decided he wanted to return. He also noted that all the competitors put their hearts into their displays and that the local crew are wonderful to work with.
There are a couple of surprises up their sleeves and both designers hoped the weather would be fair, especially with some many indoor pyro effects in their arsenal. As much as competing in Montreal is very hard work, they both noted that they were enjoying the experience.
Pyro Fantasia – A pyrotechnic symphony inspired by this Disney classic
- Toccata: David Garrett
- Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Trevor Rabin
- Nutrocker: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
- Carnival of the Animals: Chicago Symphony Orchestra
- Night on the Bare Mountain: Modest Mussorgsky
- The 5th: David Garrett
- Selections from the Firebird suite: San Francisco symphony & Michael Tilson Thomas
- Summer: David Garrett
- Nothing Else Matters: David Garrett
- Thunderstruck: David Garrett
English version of the narration:
“Welcome to the enchanted story of an apprentice wizard who yearns to one day master the ability to create a symphony of light and sound…but first this young apprentice must battle the fears of good and evil within his young mind. This journey will begin with bolts of lightning and sounds of thunder until he learns to tame his thoughts of conducting the clouds in a magical dance. As the skies darken into the night the young wizard must challenge his fears and to conquer his ascent to the top of Thunder Mountain…only then will this young apprentice face his fear of capturing this magical moment that happens only but once, in every 28 years. At that very moment as the clouds dance, the thunder strikes, is there a symphony of light and music never seen or heard like any other place in time…Nothing Else Matters…this is the moment of being Thunderstruck and the tale of Pyro Fantasia…begins…”
The Prophet Tales
Designed by Salvatore and Marco Vaccalluzzo. Galaxis firing with 32 100-cue modules and ~3000 cues
Perfect summer weather for the much anticipated participation of the Italian team of Vacculluzzo. Renowned as manufacturers, they presented a strongly themed display set to the famous book by Khalil Gibran. With Michel Lacroix being otherwise occupied by the 2012 Olympics, the usual countdown at 10:00pm didn’t quite come off as expected and the display had already started as the countdown began, without the Ferris wheel being extinguished until after the countdown was over. This marred the initial introductory narration.
The display began with a fairly simplistic firing scheme of triplets of shells, but these were of very interesting effects. The pace was slow at first but eventually started to pick up as more use was made of ramp 3. Narrative sections linked the segments of the display together, but the narrator’s voice was not always easy to hear and sometimes the narrations were just a bit too long, interrupting the flow of the display.
One very noticeable element was just how good the synchronization was. Not only of the candles and one shots, but of the shells and especially the studatas. The timing on these perfectly fitted the music and, even when several were fired at once, the timing of all the individually sub-shells matched. The one-shot timing was always spot-on, the time being carefully chosen to give the correct visual appearance of synchronization no matter the effect being used.
There were many beautiful shells deployed, including some I’d never seen before such as skymine-to-multibreak and many interesting horsetail effects – especially the shell-of-shells silver horsetails. The display was very colourful, with many bright and contrasting combinations, teal and orange being one such. Good use was made of the space of the site, with the shells firing in a pretty broad pattern, though it was noticeable that the shells burst at a lower altitude than, say, the Japanese display. The products used always reflected the music used and moments of the display were dramatic enough that I exclaimed many WOWs.
As the clock passed 10:30, we still hadn’t had a finale, though the pace became intense enough that we thought we were in a finale, with many large shells being fired and some dramatic support from sequences on ramp 3. This being an Italian display, the expectation is always that the finale will contain salutes. So there was a gold segment ending with large shells but no salutes, leaving people to wonder if this was just a different way of ending the display. But the Ferris wheel remained resolutely dark and the music continued until 10:31 and a bit. But still the Ferris wheel remained off as drums rolled and the audience cheered. Was the Ferris wheel dark due to the disorganized countdown at the start? Then the music stopped and a final narration started, so it wasn’t over yet, even though the time was now 10:32. The finale began at a frenetic pace with studata bombardments and runs of comets below. For a full two minutes the pace increased and increase as massive barrages of studata lambis (studatas of salutes) and other shells filled the sky with a final bombardment of cracking gold nautical shells with the same above, filling the sky and then a thunderous volley of massive salutes, bringing the display to an end (at 10:34!) to raucous cheering from the capacity audience, who then rose to their feet to give the Italian team a well deserved standing ovation.
This was a fabulous display by the debutante Italian team, featuring beautiful products and the most incredible timing. Definitely a display for connoisseurs of fine Italian fireworks. I found the narrative sections somewhat of an interruption and there was some repetitiveness of some of the effects used. Also, some of the firing patterns in the early part of the display were a bit simplistic. A bit more use of the lake would have been appreciated too, especially as the final nautical shells were so dramatic.But the overall effect of the display was that it was of a quality where there’s no doubt it must win a Jupiter this year.
I met with the Vaccalluzzo family of pyrotechnicians, representing Italy for the first time in Montreal with a much anticipated participation – this after much noticed display at the 9th International Symposium on Firworks, held in Berlin in 2006. Brothers Salvatore and Marco worked on the design, with the former being the chief designer and father, Antonio, is in charge of production as Vaccalluzzo are in their 4th generation as manufacturers of pyrotechnic products. The company also produces around 500 shows a year, from small community displays up to international competitions, where they have won first prize at events in Spain, France and Italy over the past few years.
Salvatore noted that the company’s production is environmentally friendly as they don’t use any plastic in any of their fireworks, but use traditional materials such as paper, card and cotton string. I asked what percentage of their products would be used in their show and was told, in no uncertain terms, that it would be 100%! Salvatore said he and his brother had been talking about how they would like to do a display around Khalil Gibran’s book, The Prophet when the invitation to compete in Montreal arrived. The conception of the display took about fifteen days with a further four months required to specially fabricate all the pyrotechnics required. Antonio noted that he had to test lots of formulae to get the effects the brothers wanted with just the right shades of colours. They also noted that there wouldn’t be any repetition of effects throughout the display. The ten segments of the display are designed to reflect the chapters of the book and its portrayal of different aspects of humanity.
Since the theme is tied to the book, they wanted something special for every segment and told me, when asked which part they were looking forward to seeing most, that they were anxious to see all of it! They had used ShowSim to help visualize the show as they designed it, but noted that they just found it faster to write the script in that software so they weren’t so focussed on the 3-D capabilities, though said it was very useful to check angles and sequences for comets etc.
On the technical side, they are using thirty two 100-cue Galaxis firing modules (assisted by Renzo Cargnelutti) with around 3000 cues. There will be nautical effects and they will not be using the floating platforms that form ramp 5. I didn’t ask about the calibre of shells as it’s deceptive with traditional Italian cylinders – a 6″ shell may be four feet high and weigh two or three times as much as a 12″ spherical shell. Vacculluzzo are renowned for their products so I’m sure we will be in for a treat.
The Prophet Tales – A pyro-artistic representation of Khalil Gibran’s book
- Soundtrack from the movie “Transformers : The Score”: Steve Jablonsky
- Soundtrack from the movie “Pirates of Caribbean”: Hans Zimmer
- My Heart will go on: Celine Dion
- Save the Last Dance For Me: Michael Bublé
- Overture of Marriage of Figaro – K.492: Wolfang Amadeus Mozart
- Liberation: Immediate Music orchestra
- A Hard Day’s Night: The Beatles
- Price igor: Alexander Borodin
- Freedom: Aretha Franklin
- Lacrimosa: Immediate Music Orchestra
- Age of Gods: Thomas Bergersen + short exctract of the trailer movie “Sherlock Holmes 2”
- Dance of the Hours: Amilcare Ponchielli
One of the most highly anticipated displays of the 2012 season, Grupo Luso had managed to keep some surprises up their sleeves that were not revealed in the interview I had conducted with Vitor Machado. Surprise was one of the key Luso elements at their debut display in 2002, with the now famous ring, then a pyrodome in 2005 and the “Mission Impossible” fuse effect in 2008.
On arrival at La Ronde, it was clear there were special structures floating in the lake that had been hinted at on their facebook page as “pendulums”. In fact, there were each of these floating on their sides in the lake, obviously replete with pyrotechnic effects. More on these later.
The music for the display began during the countdown, but this was done quite deliberately. When the countdown hit zero, the well-known “voice of Radio Canada”, Winston McQuade, introduced different pyrotechnic effects as a conductor might introduce the different instruments of an orchestra. Then the music-proper began with the familiar refrain of Carl Orff’s opening movement from Carmina Burana, a piece that has been (over)used on pyromusicals many times before. But this was a joke as McQuade interrupted the display to say just that – that this piece was overused and we needed something else! Surprising and effective!
The display proceeded with great interplay between the one-shots and candles on ramp 3 and the shells above, with many typically Portuguese effects such as a type of go-getter. Then a surprise, as fireballs erupted on ramp 4. More surprises followed later with volley after volley of rockets, something we haven’t seen in Montreal for a while and another traditional Portuguese specialty.
Intermixing soulful music with more-upbeat pieces was effective, particularly when another Portuguese effect, the relampago, came to life and gave the feeling of being in a disco. Relampagos are a form of multi-effect photoflash shells.
After the first Fado piece, fire was seen on the lake and the pendulums started to rise to a vertical position! Initially firing strobe pots, they were certainly surprising, but that wasn’t it. They had, as I found out afterwards, 50 cues on each of them. One dramatic effect was that of firing small shells. This gave the distinct impression that the shells had been fired directly at the audience and evoked the first of several WOWs from me during the display. Later, drivers on the top of the pendulums made them swing around as drivers fired at alternating sides. Later, gerbs were fired and at other points horizontal and vertical wheels. Definitely a very unique effect!
But the surprises weren’t over, though the last of them had been publicized. Violinist Eric Speed and Fadista Yolanda Soares appeared on a small stage for the final two segments of the display, to great cheers from the audience. Yolanda’s piece formed the finale which was done in traditional Luso style, with massive barrages of shells, all of the same colour, but cycling through the spectrum and ending up with white and volleys of salutes, bringing the display to a close to cheers from the audience.
I enjoyed this display and found it more balanced and integrated thematically compared to Luso’s 2008 entry and it caused me to utter the most WOWs so far this year! The music editing was cleaner with good transitions between pieces. The special effects, especially the pendulums, rockets and fireballs, were great. But there were a few mistakes which marred the performance, with one position on ramp 3 unfortunately appearing to do everything in reverse compared to its peers. I also found that some of the fireworks effects used were repetitive, with many segments with horse-tail or go-getter or crossette-type effects. I also found the range of colours used appeared to be biased towards the warm end of the spectrum, though there was one segment with a rainbow-type effect. However, on a creative level, Luso must be credited, once again, with presenting something unique for the Montreal audience with their unique pendulums.
I met with Vitor Machado, competing under the Grupo Luso banner for the forth time in Montreal. Ten years after their stunning debut display, which garnered a Silver Jupiter (though many people thought it deserved the Gold), Luso are competing here once again, despite Vitor’s exclamation, after their display in 2008 was not rewarded with a prize, that they would not be back.
So the first question was, naturally, what had changed his mind about returning to Montreal? Vitor noted that they were disappointed with the display’s placement in 2008 but he found himself thinking about “what to do next time in Montreal”. Aha! So they did want to come back. “Of course!”. We then had a discussion about how Montreal is such a special place given that the audience’s whole reason for being there is to see the fireworks, that the fireworks are the central event of the evening. He also mentioned that the Montreal competition is one of the most stable in terms of format – this also being important as well as the fact that the Montreal site is especially designed for fireworks.
We then discussed what had changed since their debut in 2002 and one thing that immediately was mentioned was the fact that now, all displays are electronically fired whereas back in 2002 about one third of the shows were manually fired. This, Vitor noted, makes for a more level playing field and means that creativity and design become key, rather than technology.
In terms of the design process, Vitor said he’s thinking about it all the time and is already thinking about his next visit to Montreal and noted that the process is much longer than just a month or so. One other thing that has changed, for Grupo Luso, is that, since 2002, they have become much more of a pyrotechnic products manufacturer. Their display this year will feature 100% Luso material, with about 70-75% coming from Portugal and the rest from Luso’s production facilities in China. This change is important and Vitor said he also wanted his display to be a showcase for their products, but, of course, without it just appearing to be product demonstration. Several new products will be shown to the public for the first time in Montreal and he noted that the competition is a good place to try new things out. Sensitive to cost, Vitor said he’d rather spend the money on something disposable rather than on an expensive structure (such as the ring or dome used in 2002/2005.
Vitor was somewhat circumspect about the design of the show, wanting people to experience the special effects themselves but not so willing to talk about them, save for the live performances by violinist Eric Speed and fadista Yolanda Soares. He did say that he wants to create an emotional environment that involves the audience, especially including music that is so dear to the Portguese soul, Fado. At the end of the day, he said he wanted to represent his company’s culture and do the best display for them and the audience.
Technical aspects are that the display will be fired using FireOne and Galaxis (also used by Sugyp and Vaccalluzzo – sharing the system saved all three companies some costs). There will be around 3000 cues. Vitor did all of the design but was assisted by Montreal native, Melanie Cagnon who now works for Luso and assisted with the choice of music.
Fire and Soul
From traditional Fado to Soul, a pyromusical celebration from the heart
Extraordinary Voyages of Jules Verne
Designed by David (pyrotechnics) and Joël (soundtrack) Hamon. FireOne firing with 99 32-cue modules and 3000 cues
A few sprinkles are rain didn’t dampen enthusiasm amongst the capacity audience for the anticpated return of féérie following their debut in 2007 with a much enjoyed pyrotechnic reworking of the story of Romeo and Juliette. With another story telling them, this promised to be an interesting display, particular as sound designer Joël Harmon’s seven year old son, Leo, was to provide the narrative aspects of the display.
After the countdown, the display began after a short introduction by Leo. The initial thematic element of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was emphasized by angled mines of blue stars breaking from left to right and vice-verse across ramp 3. The choice of colours in this segment reflected the nautical aspects with shells of blue also.
Synchronization was good throughout the display, though some moments were not quite as tight as others and one or two mis-placed effects marred an otherwise flawless performance. Good use was made of all the display area with a good interplay between the different levels and firing angles, generally filling the sky from top to bottom and left to right. Nautical effects were well exploited, with nautical fountains bursting to small mines and many firings of “Magic Carpet” effects, covering the lake with either single or multi-colour bengals, depending on the thematic context.
Five platforms forming ramp 5 were used very effectively as they fired comets in all directions horizontally over the lake. These, combined with the Magic Carpet effects were captivating. Wheels, fountains and set pieces in the shape of hearts completed the portfolio of effects used on ramp 5.
Some people noted that they thought this wasn’t a very colourful display but I disagree with this observation. I found the use of colour to be very effective throughout the display. Whilst there might not have been a lot of different colours, the colour combinations that were used were very effective, as the colours were vibrant and appropriate for the thematic elements being highlighted. David had mentioned in the interview that he hoped to avoid too much repetition and he largely achieved this, though maybe strobes were a bit overused. Very bright and colourful photoflash mines and shells were very memorable.
The theme of the display was interesting and was well reflected in both the choice of music and the fireworks effects used. This was the second display this year, though, to feature audio from the first Apollo moon landing! The narrative elements were tastefully done and short enough not to interfere with the momentum of the display. The finale was interesting in that it built to a climax, to cheers from the audience, who thought the display was over, and then continued further with very broad fans of white comets with studata shells above, ending in pink stars trailing down to the lake. The audience certainly appreciated the display and gave the team a well deserved standing ovation.
I also enjoyed the display but found that it needed a few more WOW moments. This year’s competition is shaping up to being one of the toughest in recent years and it’s really hard to predict who will be on the podium – all the displays we’ve seen so are would make credible Jupiter recipients.
Extraordinary Journeys of Jules Verne
- An Alac’h: Didier Squiban
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Film soundtrack
- Duel of the Fates: Star Wars soundtrack
- Heaven and Hell: Vangelis
- Abyss: Film soundtrack
- Plavalaguna: The Fifth Element soundtrack
- Time Crash: The Fifth Element soundtrack
- Requiem for a dream: Film soundtrack
- Heaven and Hell Part 2: Vangelis
- Escape to India: Kundun soundtrack
- Nightmare: Ronan Hardinan
- Synchrotone: Hans Zimmer (from Black Hawk Down)
- Feet of Flames: Michael Flatley
- The Bioluminescence of the Night: Avatar soundtrack
- Lucia di Lammermoor: The Fifth Element soundtrack
- Paradise: Coldplay
- Black eyes: Yevhen Hrebinka
- The Rock on the Volga: The Red Army Choir
- Roxane’s Dance: Vangelis (Alexander)
- Remous: Cirque du Soleil
- Raptors / Stand Together: Dinosaurs soundtrack
- Feet of Flames 6: Michael Flatley
- Bolero: Moulin Rouge soundtrack
Due to a work conflict, I was unable to perform the interview with David and Joël Hamon in person so am grateful to Mylène Salvas for posing my questions and providing me with a recording of her interview.
Since competing in Montreal for the first time in 2007, féérie have won prizes in several competitions: 1st prize in Blackpool, UK, in 2010 as well as first prize at a competition in Madeira, Portugal, just last year. For the 20th anniversary of the founding of their company, they are happy to compete in what they describe as the premier fireworks competition in the world, Montreal! It is always good to hear pyrotechnicians acknowledge this fact, especially given other competitions are starting to promote themselves as the “World Championship of Fireworks” or somesuch – the fact is that Montreal is still considered to be the premier competition amongst the pyrotechnic community.
The company’s patriarch, Joël Hamon was responsible for the thematic design of the show, including the music selection and son David was responsible for the technical design. The theme is based on the writings of the renowned French author, Jules Verne, and Joël’s son, Leo (aged only 7), takes part in the narrative by asking his “uncle Jules” about his writings and voyages. Thus, with “Around the world in 80 days” as well as “Journey to the Center of the Earth” or “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, the music will form the backdrop to a pyrotechnic voyage. Joël noted, that with a population as diverse as Montreal’s, they wanted to avoid something mono-thematic and use a diverse range of music that would be recognizable but eclectic at the same time.
The diverse range of music didn’t present as much as a challenge as the 30 minute duration to David who noted that, though he doesn’t like to repeat the same effects, sometimes it is necessary in order to correctly highlight certain parts with the right effect, despite there being a vast range of products available.
On the technical side lots of specially made Spanish products will be used, particularly colour changing palms and strobes. The manufacturers used include Zaragozana and Igual from Spain as well as Vulcan and Lidu from China some Italian products from Martarello. The show will be fired using 99 32-cue FireOne modules.
Competing in Montreal for the first time is always, if you’ll pardon the pun, a baptism of fire. Such was the case for Nanos fireworks, representing Greece – a premier for both country and company. Following several hot humid days, powerful thunderstorms rolled through Montreal on their final day of setup, dumping around 36mm of rain. Not only is the water a potential problem, but, when a thunderstorm is in the vicinity of La Ronde, the firing ramps are evacuated for safety reasons.
And so it was, on the night of their display, though the weather was clear and warm, pyrotechnicians could be seen scurrying around on ramps 3 and 4 as well as making sorties to various floating structures on the lake. This scene did not bode well for the upcoming display and gave me a sinking feeling in my heart. Knowing that Nanos were attempting a very complex display, to see that they weren’t finished setup at 10pm was disconcerting, to say the least. The setup itself included several floating platforms for ramp 5, as well as a large circular structure installed vertically in the centre of the lake on a platform. Between this an the audience, a plethora of smaller floating boxes, forming a teardrop shape in the lake. I reasoned that these were probably to form the “setting the lake on fire” effect that Pavlos Nanos had mentioned to me in the interview.
10pm arrived and still there were lights on in the control room below ramp 4. Then there was an announcement that there was a technical problem with ramp 1 that would take five minutes to fix and would be done to ensure a complete display. But we still witnessed pyrotechnicians scurrying around ramps 2 and 3, as well as attending to the large circular structure. After about 15 minutes, the lights went out in the control room – a good sign! – and a further announcement was made that the problems had been fixed and that the display would start shortly.
So at 10:17, Michel Lacroix did his inimitable countdown and then we heard the voice of HAL, the infallible computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But no pyro. The narration from HAL continued. Was it intentional that this was done to black sky? Hard to know, but this increased the feeling for dread that the display may not go well. Then we moved to the Mission Impossible theme and large fronts of angle starmine comets fired left and right. Phew! The firing systems were working. The display gradually picked up pace and all appeared to be well. Excellent use was made of the display area, with the shells and lower-level effects completely filling the all available space. Synchronization was particularly good, causing cheers from the audience as runs of shots zoomed left and right across ramp 3.
At about the mid-way point of the display, we were expecting the lake to be set on fire. Indeed, comets fired in a hemisphere from the vicinity of ramp 4, but none of the floating boxes forming the teardrop shape on the lake appeared to do anything. Was this a technical problem, or had the comets been the full implementation of setting the lake on fire? Hard to know. At this point, the pyro stopped and the synchronized swimmer appeared in the lake between the floating boxes and the audience. The problem with this, for the people sitting in the low seats, is that she was hard to see. So everyone stood up, making it even harder to see. This scene lasted a couple of minutes, totally without any pyro which, to my mind, broke the fluidity and rhythm of the display. Maybe if the talked-of effects had worked it would have been better, but, sadly, I can only judge what I saw.
The rest of the display was excellent, with great music and choice of effects, though maybe we had too many gold-type effects and not quite enough colour, though this latter aspect was correct in the dazzling segments towards the end. Powerful nautical shells bombarded the lake. The circular structure came to life, but with obvious problems as only one half was firing. Ramp 3 had had some kind of problem as the left quarter had stopped firing for a while, but it did come to full life for the final portions of the display, which included a very powerful finale.
This was a great effort by the Greeks, with a very creative design, but they were undoubtedly bitten hard by Tuesday’s storm – either by losing time and/or rain-induced failures. I’m not quite sure what was really envisioned for the lake effects, but their absence did cause a hole in the display unfortunately and the swimmer really didn’t add anything due to this. As I mentioned, debuting in Montreal is always a baptism of fire, but the quality and design was present in abundance from team Nanos and it was an impressive first appearance in Montreal. I sincerely hope we shall see their return in the future.