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Le Mondial SAQ 2002
Montréal International Fireworks Competition Report

United States A celebration of Life July 17th, 2002

Austin Pyrotechnics Inc. Master pyrotechnist Paul Austin, Pyrodigital firing;

'As usual, these Americans will be noticed for the great variety of their displays. "Out presentation includes from the music all the nuances of tempo, dynamics, phrasing and accent", said Paul Austin. "And from the fireworks, the changing colours, the varying intensity of light, the intricacies and subtleties, the timing of explosion, the rising and falling projectiles. The combination and succession of sights and sounds is transformed into an unforgettable spectacle". Mr Austin has been taken by pyrotechnical art since childhood. He founded his own company in 1966, and today, it stages thousands of shows a year in amusement parks and at special events of all kinds'

Terrible weather conditions prevailed about an hour before the display, with a storm overhead and torrential rains. Some shells were set off early, with three distinct accidental releases. However, these were not related to the lightning but were due to resolving some shorts - the tester having enough current to set off the shells. The rains appeared to subside before the display started, but resumed just before the display began. The main problem was the lack of wind and very wet air which lead to a vast amount of smoke accumulation, not helped by the approximately 500 cakes fired and generally large shell barrages. There were points where nothing could be seen at all. Then the rains increased. This made it very difficult to take notes, the paper getting wet, but I managed the best I could, though took very few notes in the final segment.

Part 1 to the music Spring Rain. The title of this music was prophetic since the rains which had eased began again. After a narrated introduction, the display finally got going with crossed candles in bright colours and the same in shells above. Then crossette candles with weeping willow shells above followed by kamuros. This theme was maintained for the entire segment, coming to a close with salute-terminated kamuros.

Part 2 to the music America Tonight by Leonard Bernstein. Several large and bright mine fronts were augmented by bright yellow magnesium star candles. Then fronts of glitter mines and fronts of firefly mines followed by cakes of bright stars and candles of stars in fans. Above these, gold glitter comet shells. These were followed by dahlia shells of glitter comets and shells of starfish comets with stars. Next, shells of kamuros, but shot through with bright shells of colour stars and then shaped-burst shells in the form of double concentric hearts. These were followed by shells of bright colour-headed comets and more of the double concentric hearts. Due to the weather, it was difficult to tell exactly when the next segment started so I'll just continue assume my notes refer to it.

Part 3 to the music If We Only Have Love by Jacques Brel. Large shells of colour stars and comets were followed by shaped-burst heart shells. Then mine fronts of strobe stars. These were followed by shells of glitter comets with salutes above, with more strobe mines below and then kamuro shells above. The size of the kamuros increased, trailing to the lake at one point as well as weeping willow shells of charcoal comets and then silver kamuros. These were followed by shells of bright comets and then huge shells of stars with pistils. Next, glitter comet shells and shells of crossette stars with crossette candles below. The segment came to a close with shells of strobes and salutes, but continuing after the end of the music and bleeding through into the next segment.

Part 4 to the music Itsy Bitsy Spider by Carly Simon. This segment began with the tail end of the shells from the previous segment. Then shells of comets turning to strobe. Then black sky for a considerable time. Then, suddenly, shells of crackling comets and shells of crossette comets. The black sky then returned. This eventually was followed by large shells in orange and then in white. Followed by more black sky.

Part 5 to the music Fire on the Mountain by Marshall Tucker Band. Broccade shells were intermixed with colour shells at a lower level and then shells of star crossettes. Then more broccade shells again shot through with colour shells. These were followed by glitter comet shells and then shells of crossette comets. Next, shells of fast strobe stars and bees. Barrages of these were followed by shells of colour turning to strobes and then a period of black sky again. Eventually, things got going again with large colour shells and shells of strobes. Then really large colour shells with glitter comet shells at a lower level, turning to strobes, the segment coming to a close with large weeping willow shells.

Part 6 to the music Quiet Village by Martin Denny. Things were back on-track in this segment which opened with whistling serpent cakes, with dahlia comet shells above. Then more whistling serpents with bright dahlia shells above. Next, large cakes of screaming whistles, though I could only see smoke, there were shells above of crossette stars and crackling comets (judging by the sound). More cakes of loud whistles with some sort of glitter comet shells above. The cake barrages increased in size and number, with glitter and salutes, though it was very hard to see anything because of the vast amount of smoke, bringing the segment to a close.

Part 7 to the music Stardust by H. Carmichael. Again some black sky. Then shells of gold glitter comets turning to strobes with crossed ball candles below. Above these, shaped-burst shells making saturns and then shells of slow falling coloured fireflies. Then cakes of dazzling coloured meteor comets and cakes of bright stars. Some more black sky and then ring shells, the segment coming to a close with barrages of gold glitter shells turning to strobes.

Part 8 to the music Circle of Life by Elton John and Tim Rice. The gold glitter to strobe barrages from the previous segment continued for some time, with barrage after barrage. Then huge shells of multiple rings, echoing the theme of the music, and more barrages of gold glitter comet shells. Then enormous shells with pistils and shells which made four-leaf clover patterns and again more enormous shells with pistils. Back to the gold glitter comet shells with huge colour pistil shells above followed by barrages of multi-ring shells and saturn shells. This theme continued, with more multi-ring shells, barrages of smaller rings below (though hard to see in the smoke) and shells of comets turning to strobes above. The segment came to a close with massive barrages of ring and saturn shells.

Part 9 to the music Russian Easter Overture by Rimsky-Korsakov. I didn't take many notes here due to the extreme weather conditions. This final segment began with waterfall shells and then these were followed by kamuros and shells of bright crackling dahlia comets. Next, shells of crossette stars and then barrages of huge shells. As the music became more serene for a time, barrages of shells of slow-falling coloured fireflies. Then shells of rings of tourbillons. As the musical pace increase, barrage after barrage of 12" shells with pistils and shells of crossette comets. The pace increased still further with sky (and smoke) filling barrages of massive shells with pistils, huge titanium salutes, the display finally coming to a close with barrages of salute cakes, which, unfortunately, went from a huge crescendo to fizzling out with odd salutes here and there.

There's a saying which goes something like "an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of effort". This display was, unfortunately, a classic proof of that statement. Forgetting the technical problems, which no doubt will be argued over as to their cause, though it seems they were not weather related, this was simply an ill-prepared display. Whilst I was told many different stories, it seems clear that there was no site plan until day 2 of the setup and none of the product was pre-sorted as to its final location on the firing ramps. With such a large and complex site, this approach simply cannot work. And, sadly, it showed. I feel very sorry for the crews who worked long and hard to get everything set up as best they could. That said, and it may just have been a lack of experience, the display itself cannot in all honesty be classed a pyromusical. Despite using an electronic firing system, there was poor synchronization and little attempt made at choreography. Just firing cakes and shells is not sufficient. No use made of the lake, no attempt made to show-off the precision that electronic firing systems are capable of. And on top of that, in my opinion, it never works firing bright colour shells on top of weeping willows or kamuros. This is a serious international competition which merits carefully planning and preparation. Perhaps twelve years ago a less rigorous approach worked, but this is 2002 and the state of the art has advanced very considerably since then.


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