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L'International des Feux Loto-Québec 2005
Montréal International Fireworks Competition Report

Portugal Ritmo Wednesday July 20th, 2005

Grupo Luso Pirotecnia. Designed by Vitor Machado, Pyrodigital firing; Show Director choreography; ~180 FM modules, ~3000 cues, some MagicFire electronic timers

Grupo Luso Pirotecnia

"Since its inception in 1995, fireworks firm LUSO PIROTECNIA has gained prominence at the leading events in Portugal, and has won ten major pyrotechnical performance prizes internationally. After winning the Silver Jupiter with its first-ever appearance in the Montréal competition in 2002, the LUSO PIROTECNIA team is back this year with an amazing pyromusical show that will ingeniously combine typically Portuguese pyrotechnical pieces and visual effects with rhythms from all over the world, from the Taïko drums of Japan to Brazilian samba to the bombast of Beethoven's 5th. Paying homage to the cadences and harmonies that form the pulse of our planet, day after day, the rhythms of 'Ritmo' promise to move hearts and minds - and feet."

Excessive heat and humidity fortunately gave way to a perfect summer evening, save for the wind direction which proved to be somewhat recalcitrant for the irrepressible amateurs sat in the silver section (yours truly for example). There were many features of note in the display and so some special treatment is required in this report so bear with me until after the descriptive parts for a fuller discussion of this highly original performance.

Part 1 to the music Kyosui by Yoshi Fujimoto . This began with two floating platforms to the left and right hand sides of the lake lit up from behind by white strobes and bengals, the light of these throwing large shadows of two performers who mimed the banging of the large Japanese Taïko drums that formed the body of the soundtrack. Their movements were very well synchronized to the music. After some time, flights of gold trailing sky mines started to burst in the sky as the performers continued their mime; this theme continued until the end of the segment.

Part 2 to the music Barbapapa's Groove by Barbatuques. This began with silver trailing sky mines and sequences of mines on ramp 3. Then fans of comets from ramps 3 and 4 and a return to highly synchronized bursts of large gold kamuro mines with the sky mines continuing above. Yellow crossing stars and mines were augmented by kamuro comets and then runs of sequenced mines. Big kamuro mines left and right firing on ramp 4 were followed by the same in pairs on ramp 3. Above these, shells of go-getters with a central burst of silver "dripping" dust. More big fans of kamuro mines on ramp 4 as the go-getters continued above. Then fast sequences of colour mines as the go-getters continued, bringing the segment to a close.

Part 3 to the music 5th Symphony by Beethoven. Perfect note-sequence gold glitter mines in Vs (for 5 of course!) fired on the famous these da da da dum. Then shells of crossettes and a return to the gold glitter mines for the next da da da dum. As the music seemed to fly, so did shells of go-getters flying far across the sky. These pyrotechnic themes continued in harmony with the music with a return to the same pyrotechnic effect for the corresponding musical episode. Soon it became apparent that the first movement was going to be played in its entire seven minutes or so. And so it was. The music themes continuing to tie to the pyrotechnic themes but as the music evovled, the shells move to shells of bees and different kinds of go-getters but always returning to the V-shaped gold glitter mines for the da da da dums. As the music progressed, the shells became colour star crossettes as and then shells of strobes in bright orange. Beneath these, fans of pink stars and then shells of orange star crossettes. More mines and then shells of gold strobes with gold glitter mines beneath and then an increase to shells of silver crossettes. As the music became serene, very gentle sky-mines of silver falling comets and as the music built again, fans of yellow stars, charcoal fans left and right and shells of yellow stars above. These built and formed a theme of the pale charcoal fans left and right, yellow mines and shells of yellow crossettes above. Then an interlude of white strobe shells and a move to shells of blue and orange crossettes followed by green strobes and then shells of yellow and blue crossettes with really nice colours. Barrages of these shells of different coloured crossetes built in intensity and then were replaced by strobes and then back to crossettes, filling the sky and augmented with massive gold glitter mines beneath bringing this incredible segment to a close and a big wow in my notes.

Part 4 to the music Flamenco by Eva Yerbabuena. Fans of orange stars were augmented by shells of multiple pale orange photo-flash (relampagos is the name of this traditional Portugese shell). Meteor-headed comets fired below as the photo-flash shells became brighter and more salute-like in their bursting with distinct fast rhythms to the explosions. Next, mines of colour stars and silver kamuro comets and this theme continued in a very rhythmic way. Big fans of silver "dripping" comets were augmented by shells of shells of strobes and then shells of white meteor comets as distinct rhythm multi-salute shells fired above, becoming more and more numerous as the music faded away to leave just the sound of snare or cymbals as we entered:

Part 5 to the music Ritmo - Main Theme by Vitor Machado. This entire segment consisted of rhythmic salutes, many of them fitted with MagicFire electronic timers. As well as salute shells, there were salutes fired from the suspension wires of the "pyrodome" (see later). In effect, there were three salute sounds of different depths and these formed the rhythm section of the musical track which had been reduced to just the snare/cymbal sound to make the audience aware that nothing was broken. The effect was simply stunning as the timing was just perfect. It is too hard to describe but any drummers will be able to imagine how it worked. I'm sure many in the audience didn't get it, but the effect was very very well done and reminscent of the typical Portuguese daytime displays of just salutes of different sizes and rhythms. A well deserved big WOW appeared in my notes.

Part 6 to the music Kunya Sobe by René Dupéré Fans of gold glitter comets with orange shells above were followed by shells of small strobes and crossed pale silver comets below. The small strobes continued as shells of silver spider comets turning to "waggling" comets fired above. Then fans of gold "dripping" comets below as the silver spider-to-waggling comets continued above. Then mines of serpents with big kamuro shells above. This theme continued and was followed be shells of dim brocade turning to silver comets for the last part of the burn, giving the effect of the silver part just appearing fully-formed. A return to the fans of serpent candles with kamuro shells above and then shells of crackling comet crossettes with crackling firefly comet fans below by now. These were followed by large palm tree shells in bright pale gold brocade with barrages of these and then a colour shift to more silvery kamuros (but not actually silver) filling the sky and bringing the segment to a close.

Part 7 to the music Queda d'agua by Artur Fernandes. Mines of silver "dripping" comets were augmented by shells of serpents above and then candles of silver "dripping" comets. Above these, the serpent shells continued with mines of silver kamuros below. These themes continued until the end of the segment.

Part 8 to the music Underwater by Stomp. Shells of falling leaf strobes burst above as fans of "dripping" comets fired below. Then a ring of strobes lit up high in the air on a strange structure. As the strobes continued, suddenly the lake burst into life with dozens of double foutains on angles started to spin on the surface of the lake to loud cheers from the surprized audience. Then, high in the air, horizontal wheels in silver started to turn on the top of the strange structure ... as the music moved to

Part 9 to the music Reflections of Earth by Gavin Greenaway. Mine shots appeared diametrically opposed from the suspended "pyrodome". Then amazing bursts of mines in three dimensions from the surface of the dome to gasps from the audience. These amazing bursts in 3-D continued and elicited a huge WOW in my notes and screams from the audience. Comet and mine sequences and more 3-D bursts continued. My notes become unreadable but the 3-D effects continued and then barrages of shells first in red, then yellow, then blue, and then silver filled the sky in a thrilling procession, always synchronized and with excitement. The display came to a close with more massive 3-D bursts from the "pyrodome" with barrages of mines and a final double barrage of large salutes. The audience cheered and rose to their feet to give the Portuguese team a standing ovation.

This was a very unusual and original display. More explanation is needed than normal of the special effects used. Firstly, the shadow puppeteers floating on the lake behind large circular screens were illuminated with white bengals and strobes. Before the display had stared, a large hemisphere could be seen at pretty much ground level at the back of ramp 3 with a number of cables running up to a couple of I-beams suspended from a crane. There appeared to be pyro-devices attached to these suspension cables. However, more of this later.

The rhythmic section was unique in my experience at La Ronde and, for me, worked extremely well with three clearly identifiable "tones" of differently sized salutes, their timing just perfect due to MagicFire igniters. I'm sure many people just didn't "get" this segment though.

In the penultimate segement, a ring of strobes appeared in the air so we can conclude that the pyrodome was raised into place just before this so that it wasn't visible during the display. As with the original "Portuguese Ring" in 2002, the pyrodome also included several spinning wheels as well as many many mines and comets. However, being a hemisphere facing the audience, the 3-D effect of the bursts was simply stunning. A pity the wind refused to clear the smoke from the audience's view of this amazing device.

The overall theme of the display may not have been clear but, to my mind, it was the different rhythms that were the key from the Japanese drums to the famous "da da da dum" of Beethoven's 5th to the salute "drums" of the Ritmo segment. The main weakness was the opening segment. The Japanese drums are very powerful and it would have been perfect if the performers' mimes had initiated mines or some other devices to accentuate the drums, rather than the somewhat weak sky-mines. Also, there just wasn't quite enough ooomph in the first half of the display. Even the well-executed segment of Beethoven's 5th could have used some more dramatic highs and dynamics, though it was well done. The second half of the display was well done and I enjoyed the finale because the structure and rhythm wasn't lost in any uncontrolled mayhem and the excitement built by the pyrodome worked the audience really well.

Definitely an incredibly creative and unique display. As to it's final ranking this year? That is very hard to assess. It really depends if the jury "got it" or not during the Ritmo section and if they could understand that there was a theme to the entire display. I have a feeling that the weaker first half means that Grupo Luso will be hard placed to beat Sweden to the Gold Jupiter this year. As for the remaining visitors to the podium? I'm going to refrain from any more ranking until the end of the competition!


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