L'International des Feux Loto-Québec 2008
Montréal International Fireworks Competition Report
Howard and Sons Pyrotechnics Pty., designed by Stuart Bensley and directed by Christian Howard FireOne firing, ScriptMaker choreography
Montréal, Friday, July 18, 2008 - Lac des Dauphins will be lit up in a way rarely seen over the last quarter century that the competition has been held in Montréal. The Australian firm of Howard & Sons is coming to town with no less than 30 pontoons that will be used to deploy what they call "close proximity pyrotechnics." Never has the L’International des Feux Loto-Québec presented by TELUS slogan of "come and see what you’re missing" been more appropriate than this week.
The Australian spectacle, entitled Evolution, uses light and sound to showcase well-known pieces of music that have "evolved" through new covers, arrangement, remixes, and rerecording. Howard & Sons will be running just about every kind of music - classical, electronic, pop, and rock - through their huge mixer. The program includes a symphonic version of the huge Metallica hit Nothing Else Matters as well as revisited versions of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love and Mary J. Blidge’s cover of the U2 hit One. The team from "down under" will also be putting on some of their own with Nicole Kidman interpreting Sparkling Diamonds à la Moulin Rouge and Crowded House’s planetary smash Don’t Dream It’s Over, as remixed by Grant Stevens.
A worldwide pyrotechnical leader, Howard & Sons remains a family business, as is often the case in this field. Since 1922, the company has been headed by four generations of the Howard family. In other words, three generations have produced "pyrotechnical" offspring. And the tradition is continuing: the fifth generation is already under way and the Howards are awaiting another "explosive" birth in the hours ahead!
Of course, Howard & Sons has also produced spectacles seen by audiences everywhere, such as at the 2006 Commonwealth Games (opening and closing ceremonies), a competition in Malaysia in 2007 (first-place winners), in Shanghai in 2005 (second place), and in Montréal the same year. While firm members recall that their 2005 participation was rain drenched, their main memories were out about using the site and its characteristics to the utmost. That is exactly what they plan to do on Saturday to win an award in what designer Stuart Bensley has stated is the "most prestigious and well-established pyromusical competitions in the world."
A couple of heavy downpours didn't dampen enthusiasm for the capacity audience present
to witness the return of the Australian team who'd made their debut in 2005. With a promise
of a special ramp 5 composed of 26 floating platforms this was a highly anticipated display
with a promising soundtrack. Howard and Sons had scoured the pyrotechnics world for the material
for this display (as well as being manufacturers themselves, particularly of close
proximity material) and so the audience awaited the countdown with a great deal of
Part 1 to the music Sparkling Diamonds by Nicole Kidman from Moulin Rouge The display began powerfully almost in advance of the end of countdown with a barrage of large shells, crossed meteor comets below and a front of glitter mines. Angled mines firing left and right with bombettes above and shells of charcoal comets above turning to strobes were augmented by mines of strobes as the glitter comet bombettes continued. An opening fan of meteor comet shots was followed by a volley of large shells above with mines of go getters and then farfalles above, some of which didn't burst strongly enough. A run of mines below with more of the weak farfalles above, then larger note-synchronized mines and comet shots converging in the centre. Glitter comet candles were augmented by star shots left and right and more converging comets. This theme continued and was followed by comet shots with shells of strobes above and more of the weak farfalles. Next shells of waving comets and fans of tourbillons below, the segment coming to a close with volleys of strobe shells and shells of crackle and a front of strobing mines to cheers from the audience.
Part 2 to the music Light my Fire by Chris Goodey, Kennedy, Peter Scholes. Rising tail shells of gold horsetails were augmented by flame effects on ramp 5 and a run of flames across ramp 3 as crossed glitter candles opened up. More flame effects as the crossed candles continued and were augmented by crackling charcoal comet shells above. Then shells with rising tail effects where several small shells burst as the main shell rises to give a blooming flower effect as these burst to Niagara Falls shells. Crossed gerb hits and more flame effects fired below on ramp 5 and then fans of bombettes opened above and were followed by large shells of charcoal comets with crackling pistils and then huge shells of crackle with crackling pistils as a dazzling mine front fired below causing a WOW and bringing the segment to a close somewhat after the music had finished.
Part 3 to the music Helter Skelter by Dana Fuchs. A line of strobes lit up across ramp 3. Then fans of comets with shells of strobes above and shells of stars with starfish comets. Volleys of shells of charcoal comets turning to stars were augmented by crossed glitter comets below and then large shells above and huge angled mines left and right. Massive vertical mines of comets turning to scrambling stars were followed by volleys of shells of strobes above and fans of glitter comets below with bombettes in between. Volleys of large shells were followed by more scrambling star mines and shells with pistils above, the segment coming to a close with a volley of very large shells and converging gold comets below.
Part 4 to the music Talk by Coldplay remixed by Junkie XL Another line of strobe lit up, this time on ramp 5. Crossed gold glitter comets fired behind with strobing saturn shells above and then angled mines below. This theme continued and was augmented by bombettes and then an opening fan of gold comets with volleys of huge star shells with pistils all turning to strobes above. This theme continued, the barrages of pistil shells filling the sky and bringing the segment to a close with cheers from the audience.
Part 5 to the music Down Under Unplugged by Colin Hay Crossed star candles were then augmented by crossed candles of crossette stars. Above these, shells of crossettes and shells of strobing horsetails. The crossettes continued and were followed by gold charcoal horsetails and more of the strobing horsetails with shells of thick comets above. Then larger shells of diadems followed by large shells with pistils. Fans of strobing comets then fired below with shells of comets ending in bombettes above, a barrage of these bringing the segment to a close.
Part 6 to the music Nothing Else Matters by Metallica & The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra Strobing horsetails began this section as well as very large kamuro mines below. Then crossed kamuro comet candles and fans of starmine comest. Short duration gerbs flicked across ramp 5 as the kamuro comet candles continued. Sequenced shots of kamuro comets from the left, right and centre were followed by unfolding fans of stars and more sequence comet shots. This theme continued and then a return to the large mines. Next smaller charcoal comet mines with shells of the same above. These were followed by crossed mines of charcoal comets turning to strobes with smaller ones at a low level and large ones above. This theme continued and was followed by shells of clusters of charcoal comets with strobing pistils augmented by bombettes below. Then shells of charcoal crossette comets, filling the sky and really large shells of charcoal comets with strobing pistils. These were followed by volleys of coloured falling leaf shells with shells of the charcoal comets and strobes above and the mines of charcoal comets to strobes below. Falling leaf bombettes added to the mix as well as shells of pale gold. A return to the crossed kamuro comet candles and then shells with the rising effects bursting to gold horsetails, trailing to the lake. These were followed by strobing horsetails with large pale gold strobing comet shells above augmented with bombettes below. This theme continued and built in intensity as suddenly screaming gold whistles rose into the air with mines of gold comets in the middle with wave after wave of whistles as shells of strobes burst above bringing the segment to a close with cheers from the audience as the strobes twinkled down to the lake.
Part 7 to the music Adagio For Strings by composed by Barber, remixed by William Orbit More deep gold horsetails then started to trail from the sky, some with strobes. This theme continued and was followed by a front of kamuro mines as strobes lit up across ramp 3 and mines of strobes rose up. Sequences of short duration gold gerbs forming 6 pointed stars danced across ramp 3 in a serene way that was somewhat at odds with the techno music. This gerb sequence continued and was followed by angled jets of gold from ramp 5 and then mines of strobes with shells above and bombettes below. Volleys of large shells fired above, smaller shells below as the bombettes continued together with the mines as shells with pistils added into the mix. The music transitioned seamlessly to
Part 8 to the music Proper Education by Eric Prydz v Pink Floyd The barrages continued, finally of appropriate gauge for the music as shells of crackle with crackling pistils burst into the sky. These crackling pistil shells continued with barrages of smaller shells below, filling the sky with colour stars turning to crackle. Shells of clusters of crackling comets were followed by shells of gold tourbillons ending in small salutes and then a return to the massive shells of stars with crackling pistils and shells with strobing pistils augmented by bombettes below. As the bombettes continued, volleys of shells above were followed by mines of gold strobes below, bringing the segment to a close.
Part 9 to the music Peter Allen Medley feat 'I Still Call Australia Home’ & 'Tenterfield Saddler’ by Tommy Emmanuel Gold glittering comets firing left and right formed a serene start to this segment and were followed by sequences of strobing comets firing left and right and criss-crossing. These were then replaced by brighter strobing comet sequences and kaleidoscope shells with crackling pistils above. These were followed by shells of strobes, then the kaleidoscope shells with gold horsetails above. This theme continued until the music transitioned to
Part 10 to the music Whole Lotta Love by Led Zepplin remixed by Brendan Tracey Flames lit up across ramp 3 as heart-shaped bursts in red opened above with more of the strobing horsetail shells. The audience cheered as the heart shells continued and were followed by crossed charcoal comets below. Saturn shells were then added to the mix followed by a return to the strobing horsetails. A volley of crossing star shells with flights of thick strobing comets below. Barrages of star and comet shells were followed by more horsetails trailing to the lake, then barrages of strobes and paler horsetails as the music transitioned to
Part 11 to the music Under The Milky Way by The Church, George & The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra A serene line of gerbs lit up across ramp 5. As these burned they were augmented by small gentle strobe mines. Then crossed strobing comet candles augmented by shells of strobes above. These were then augmented by bombettes and shells of crossettes above and shells of comets at a higher level. Gold glitter mines then added into the mix and were followed by crossed mines of strobes which formed a new theme and were followed by massive shells of gold comets with pistils with broad fans of gold comets fired below and augmented by bomettes as the massive shells continued, the stars turning to strobes. This theme continued with bombettes of small strobes and the large pistil shells above. Then smaller shells of strobes with crossed deep gold mine shots below. The music became more serene as huge shells of stars terminating in crackle bunches filled the sky and then gentle glitter mines below as the music transitioned to
Part 12 to the music Don't Dream Its Over by Crowded House & Sarah Blasko remixed by Grant Stevens Shells of tiny falling leaf stars were followed by shaped burst shells with small stars on either side of a ring of comets. This theme continued and was followed by shells of gold comets with blue pistils with bombettes below. Then volleys of shells of popping broccade and burst of crossed bright strobe mines below as the music transitioned to
Part 13 to the music One by One Mary J Bilge & U2 This started out gently with pairs of star and comet shots, moving to threes and then back to twos. Then back to single shots followed by pairs. This alternating theme continued and then a front of mines with Z-cakes at one side of small bombettes. These were then augmented at the other side and by farfalles, some working and some too weak again. This theme continued and was followed by massive shells with the rising effects bursting to crackling pistils with strobes as well as popping broccades. This theme continued and was augmented by comet shells at a lower level with strobes and more of the rising effect shells. Volleys of huge shells then started to fill the sky as bombettes began below together with crossed mines of strobes. A couple of huge flowerpots gave the impression of massive mines as enormous pistil shells burst above. The pace increased with barrages above and mines and bombettes below. The audience scremed as a massive barrage of salute terminated serpents rose into the air as massive strobing crackling shells above brought the display to a close.
This was a very enjoyable display from the Australian team, with much a grander style than their debut display. The first display of the competition this year to use 12" shells, these were really enjoyed by the audience and gave a great breadth to the display. The powerful opening was thoroughly enjoyed and the Metallica sequence was particularly well done. Some excellent shells were used, but the farfalles were very poor unfortunately. The rising tail effects were greatly enjoyed by the audience and were used to much large extent in this display than any other I can remember. The 26 floating platforms forming ramp 5 were not as effective as they might have been as it was difficult to discern the difference between them and ramp 3 and they seemed to have prevented any nautical effects being fired. One enjoyable aspect of the display was the use of mines, particularly large calibre ones. There was quite a lot of repititousness with the gold effects and particularly the horsetail shells - it seems that 2008 is the year of the horsetail in Montreal. I found some of the sequences were too "dark" for the type of music (particularly the Orbital section) and the finale seemed to be too small compared to the powerful opening of the display. Synchronization was good on the whole but there were a couple of places where the fireworks continued beyond the music they were associated with. The soundtrack was enjoyable but didn't appear to lend itself to showing too much complexity. All that said, it was an excellent display which shows the team learned a lot during their first visit to Montreal in 2005.
Thanks to the public relations people of La Ronde for the official
press release material, shown in white.