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Le Mondial SAQ 2001
Montréal International Fireworks Competition Report

USA The Wonderful World of Fireworks Saturday July 14th, 2001

Pyro Spectaculars by Souza, produced by Jim Souza, designed by Alberto Navarro, PyroDigital firing

"Spectators will watch the history of fireworks flash before their eyes when The Wonderful World of Fireworks takes over Montréal's sky. During the pyromusical show, which will display techniques from the past, present and future, 7738 fireworks will be launched ... there will be more than 5000 cues, which, when added to the number of fireworks, will establish two Montréal pyrotechnic festival records.

"For centuries, fireworks have passionately inspired the world's diverse cultures. In our corner of the world, fireworks are an expression of joy, good fortune and even love," explained Jim Souza, president of Pyro Spectaculars by Souza and producer of the show. "This show is designed as a universal hommage to the pyrotechnic art. This is why not only will it be punctuated by pyrotechnic special effects, representatives of numerous countries and continents, but will also demonstrate how fireworks have transcended the ages."

Armed with the most avant-garde technology, Jim Souza's team, which includes world-renowned fireworks specialists Alberto Navarro and Eric Tucker, promises an unforgettable show. Jim Souza's team has been working on the show's concept since January 1st 2001.

A few sprinkles couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of the largest audience of the season so far for probably the most complex fireworks display ever attempted. With the renowned Alberto Navarro as the main pyrographer and with contributions from Eric Tucker and Gene Evans and with the able assistance of Ken Nixon of PyroDigital Consultants, we knew we were in for something special. The theme was to be a journey through the wonderful world of fireworks, from the early Chinese discovery of gunpowder, through to the present, passing through the firework cultures of Spain and Italy along the way. To reinforce this theme, material representing these great firework cultures was used - with Matsuna, San Tai, Ricardo Caballer and IPON, amongst others, used. Modern technology was employed through the PyroDigital firing system, with 390 modules (for a total of 5200 cues) and even a segment with MagicFire electronic time fuses. I hope my notes do this complex display justice, since I was in the path of the smoke and debris for a good portion of the display.

Part 1 to the music Day One by John Tesh. A large fireball erupted as strobes lit up the roof of the centre control room and a narration explained the theme of the display. Then things got going with fans of comets in perfect note synchronization - [ a running theme throughout the display was the use of single shot comets rather than candles ]. The comet shots continued and then shells of silver and blue above and then shells of crackle and really large colour shells. These were followed by salute barrages and nautic flares in the lake with comets with glittering fireflies embedded as the flares in the lake became strobes. Then fans of rockets bursting to twinkling stars with shells of strobes above and then more fans of rockets followed by another large fireball as the music seamlessly moved to:

Part 2 to the music The Postman. Shells of slow falling twinkling stars were followed by shells of stars and comets and then barrages of salutes and kamuro shells. These were followed by crackling mines and shells and cakes of tourbillons as the music moved into:

Part 3 to the music New Year's Fesitval by the Hong Kong Symphony Orchestra. Crackling rising tails bursting to crackling palm trees were followed by lots of synchronized star shots in fans with shells of clusters of stars above and shells of popping brocades followed by more large shells bursting into comets and clusters of stars. These were followed by fast cakes of stars with shells bursting to comets and then small clusters of colour stars appearing afterwards. More shells similar to these, but with crackling comets and colour clusters popping out. These were followed by whistling tourbillons with barrages of salutes above and shells of tourbillons and then shells of crossette balls stars followed my more of the shells of comets and appearing clusters of stars, the segment coming to a close with huge crackling kamuro shells.

Part 4 to the music Orochi by Kitaro. This segment began with slow falling white comets with strobes on the centre control room roof with shells of rings of tourbillons above and then shells of clusters of silver comets. These were followed by silver kamuro shells and shells with pistils, with note synchronized mines below as more shells of comets with pistils burst above. Then shells with crackling pistils, mine after mine after mine below, the segment coming to a close with enormous shells with crackling pistils ending with a huge kamuro.

Part 5 to the music Funiculi-Funicula by Andre Rieu [ choreographed by Eric Tucker as a tribute to Giovanni Panzera ]. This Italian segment began with large mines of clusters of stars with shells of the flower-like tourbillons above and then crossed comets beneath as more of the single and double petal flower tourbillon shells with pistils burst above. This theme continued and then moved into a repeating sequence of multi-break shell-of-shells with left aimed and right aimed synchronized mines beneath and crossed glitter comets and more of the flower tourbillon pistil shells above. More left and right firing synchronized mines, more large multi-break shell-of-shells above and yet more mines and a final multi-break shell-of-shells.

Part 6 to the music Royal Fireworks Suite by Händel. This began with crackling crossette comets and a line of triple-feather fountains as shells of dahlia comets burst above. The fountains grew brighter and larger as shells of stars turning into crackling crossettes burst above and then shells with rising tails bursting to crackling crossette comets, bringing the segment to a close.

Part 7 to the music Concerto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo. This more serene segment began with comets containing fireflies arcing from the left and the right of the display (as a triple-feather fountain erroneously lit up on its own). Then arcing comets starting from almost vertical progressing to lower and lower, again from the left and right sides. A flight of sparkling gold double ascension girandolas rose into the air to cheers as shells of strobe-stars fired above. Then another flight of girandolas this time bursting to stars as more strobe-star shells fired above. Another flight of girandolas, more strobe-star shells, then another flight of girandolas bursting to stars. More girandolas with shells of strobe stars above were followed by two more flights of girandolas, the segment coming to a close with a line of vertical firefly comets and then arcing comets from left and right.

Part 8 to the music Offenbach/Rosenthal by Leonard Bernstein. A large red to blue colour changing shell opened this segment and then a line of tourbillon candles fired for a good portion of time on their own. As the music crescendoed, the candles kept on firing with nothing else, giving the impression something was missing. Finally mines of tourbillons and stars and salutes filled in the space as candles of bombette comets joined in with shells of colour changing stars and more salutes. More candles of tourbillons and barrages of mines of tourbillons stars and salutes, the segment coming to a close with a large blue shell with a crackling pistil.

Part 9 to the music Standing in Motion by Yanni. The narration announced that we had reached the modern era of fireworks and so the segment began with strobes in the lake as shells of clusters of silver comets burst above. Then silver kamuro shells, shells of gold kamuro and crackling pistils and then shells of strobe-stars. These were followed by shells of crackling comets and strobe-stars as barrage after barrage of these was fired. Shells of crackling strobes (really) were followed by synchronized mines of colour stars below followed by crossed star shots with the shots in perfect synchronization to the music. These star shots were in crosses, then triple Vs, then in five-fingered fans etc. all in perfect sync and were followed by mines of clusters of comets. Then mines of clusters of charcoal comets turning to strobes with bombettes of strobes and flares turning to strobes in the lake. These were followed by five-fingered fans of the firefly comets, then vertical comet shots, then crosses and then fans again with more low bombette strobes and higher level strobe shells above, bringing the segment to a close.

Part 10 to the music Millenium Walk-Greenaway by the London Symphony Orchestra. This segment began with comets at 15°, 30°, 45° and 60° from the left and right, the lowest rightmost comet unfortunately having their rack falling over (see later). Then crossette comets in cross shapes (the right-most again having problems due to the fallen rack - this then being taken out of the display for safety after a crossette comet bounced across the lake and exploded rather near to the press area). These were followed by by star crossettes the segment coming to a close with a huge flash, which I unfortunately missed seeing what it was since I was looking at my notebook!

Part 11 to the music Lord of the Dance by Hardiman. This entire segment consisted of fans of short duration gerbs, stretched out across the lake. This doesn't sound much, but, in fact, the gerbs danced to the music. Sparks to the left, sparks to the right, fans of sparks left, right and up - all in perfect synchronization to the music. Sometimes there were pairs of sparks to the left and right, other times wide Vs or W shapes, sometimes brighter, sometimes dimmer. And so it continued throughout the segment, a final large flash bringing it to a close. Nothing like this has ever been seen before in the competition. An incredible 1011 cues (and 59 PyroDigital firing modules) were used in this 45 second segment. It was nothing short of fabulous, words just don't do it justice.

Part 12 to the music The Blue Danube by Strauss. Blue strobes lit up the roof of the centre control room as silver girandolas rose into the air and burst to blue stars. Then shells of pale blue and red above as another flight of silver girandolas rose up. Then another flight, with pale blue shells above and shells of rings with pistils followed by three more flights of girandolas with shells of rings of red and blue above followed by fans of wiggling comets and then candles of go-getter star-headed silver comets. Shells of smiley faces burst above as more of the go-getter star-headed comet candles fired below as more smiley faces and shells of hearts and rings in red and blue burst above, the segment coming to a close with shells of the crackling strobe-stars.

Part 13 to the music Theme from 2001 by Strauss. [Using MagicFire electronic time fuses]. This, the most perfectly synchronized of segments due to the MagicFire electronic time fuses, began with thick gold comets rising into the air on the opening notes. Then a huge silver comet shell bursting at exactly the right moment followed by gold glitter mines below. Then shells of gold kamuro with crackling pistils followed by more gold glitter mines. More kamuro shells with crackle followed my another perfectly synchronized silver and blue shell. These were followed by silver comets turning to crackle and clusters of fast strobing stars with shells of big rings and pistils. Then shells of dazzling clusters and crackle, the segment coming to a close with on-the-note titanium salutes.

Part 14 to the music Fanfare to the Common Man by Aaron Copeland. Strobes on the lake lit up as the narrator announced the grand finale, which was to culminate in Pyro Spectacular's signature rendition of John Philip Souza's Stars and Stripes Forever. The segment began with fans of bright comets with shells of half red half blue and the reverse in pistils above. Then shells of gold comets with crossed silver comets below followed my mines of glitter comets as more of the half red half blue complementary pistil shells burst above, the segment coming to a close with a multi-break shell-of-shells kamuro.

Part 15 to the music How Down by Aaron Copeland. A line of gold horizontal wheels close to the audience in the lake started to rotate and shoot up tourbillons as two large multi-spinning horizontal devices on the floating ramp fired up (but I couldn't see too well because of the smoke). Above these, shells with pistils as flares lit up on the lake, the segment coming to a close with large blue and silver shells, some breaking a bit low.

Part 16 to the music Rhapsody in Blue by George Gerschwin. Fans of the star-headed go-getter comets and fans of regular comets began this segment as multi-break shell-of-shells in blue burst above. The sky was filled with blue shells, as a large fire was noticed burning at the right hand side of the floating ramp. Barrages of mines were followed by shells of popping glitter brocades and then angled star shots with shells of orange stars with pistils above. There were followed by shells of multiple colours, the segment coming to a close with huge shells of colour changing stars and comets with pistils.

Part 17 to the music Stars and Stripes Forever by Bob Sharples. This main finale, which became difficult to see due to the smoke and debris in my eyes, began with shells in red, white and blue with mines below. Then brilliant blue shells in starfish clusters of stars, with glitter comets below and then huge silver and blue shells (with a few breaking rather low). These were followed by bright silver comet shells, shells of brilliant silver clusters and then a large silver and blue muzzle break. Next, shells of slow falling comets with bombettes below and then more slow falling comet shells, trailing quite low down. These were followed by brighter clusters of falling silver comets (probably brighter because the smoke had cleared a bit), another very low break and then shells of gold glitter turning into clusters of colour stars. Barrages of very bright and large mines on the notes were followed by more of the comet shells ending in clusters of colour stars. The pace was increasing by now and there was lots of smoke in the air and so much debris in my eyes that I couldn't see anymore. Lots of barrages of salutes, the flashes of which I could see through my closed eyes, the noise and brightness increasing and increasing, bringing the segment to a fantastic close.

Part 18 to the music Bye Bye Bye by NSYNC. The final few seconds of the display consisted of glitter comets and salutes, but I still was having trouble seeing. This segment was something of an in joke I think, since the music was by NSYNC - i.e. in sync, which was very appropriate for the fantastic synchronization throughout the entire display. A final commentary from Jim Sousa brought the display to an end, to cheers from the crowd, the end of ramp three now engulfed in large flames. As the fire crew moved into place to put it out, comets and crossettes started flying out for a short time.

As Ken Nixon of PyroDigital said afterwards, this may well have been the most complex fireworks display ever attempted. The Lord of the Dance section alone used 1011 cues in 45 seconds, complexity on an unprecedented scale and the talk of the crowd afterwards. The display itself was an ambitious journey through fireworks history and was very well received by the crowd. It is very difficult to rate such a display since the "degree of difficulty" to use diving and figure skating terminology, was very high. The synchronization was flawless throughout, especially all the single-shot stars and comets where, normally, Roman candles might have been used. This, itself, added to the complexity of the display and paid off handsomely. The MagicFire electronic time fuses were used to great effect in the 2001 segment, where the booms of the salutes and the drums of the music were in perfect alignment. The material used throughout the display was fantastic, especially the vast numbers of girandolas used and I was quite surprised to see rockets fired from a US designed show - I think Alberto Navarro's Spanish roots were clearly showing here, as he told me afterwards there was a whole section of the display in pure Valencian fireworks. Because of the degree of difficulty attempted, some small criticisms have to be levelled. During the Blue Danube, the blues were insipid and were spoiled, in my opinion, by the red shells. The portion of the Offenbach segment when only tourbillon candles were firing was either a technical or other problem - I did hear talk that there just wasn't time to set up more product for this segment. A few too many low breaks as well and a mis-wired triple-feather fountain. These are small points, but when the aim is so high, they have to be made. The fire on ramp three was irrelevant, accidents can and do happen and there were no injuries; the fire crew were on hand to deal with it and did so rapidly after the display was over. The highlight was definitely the Lord of the Dance section and I think the theme of the display itself was well executed. Will Pyro Spectaculars be on the winner's podium and, if so, where? This is hard to say. Nothing of this complexity has been attempted before. Dare I predict that it will receive a Special Jupiter for being the pinnacle in the art of the design of a pyromusical?


Thanks to the public relations people of La Ronde for the official press release material, shown in white.