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l'International Benson & Hedges 1993

Montréal 1993

United States -- June 5, 1993

Rozzi's Famous Fireworks

This was a spectacular display with, according to the local press, over 3000 shells being fired through the 30 minute music coordinated display.

Some unusual effects were created - one that springs to mind is the creation of "palm trees". These appeared to be shells which, instead of ascending in darkness, left a "trunk" of sparks and then exploded into "palm fronds" complete even with glowing "red berries". Also interesting were the huge displays of "twinkling stars" (the formulae for which have been discussed in this group) with many thousands of the stars filling the sky at any one time.

All in all, this was a terrific opening to the competition, especially the finale which was performed to the finale of Grofe's Grand Canyon suite.


Canada -- June 12, 1993


This was a completely different approach to that of the United States team, with much more serene atmospheric effects which fitted well with the accompanying music. There were some particularly dramatic stars which changed color several times and also the use of violet and orange (something which I haven't seen before). However, I rated this display lower than that of the American's since there were almost no salutes.


England -- June 19, 1993

Kimbolton Fireworks

After an absence of 8 years, England made a dramatic return to the Benson and Hedges International Fireworks Competition last Saturday night in Montreal.

The music coordinated pyrotechnics were greeted enthusiastically by the thousands of people spectating, producing applause during the display, in contrast to the previous weeks' entrants when applause was reserved until the end of the performance. Music included works by Elgar and other English composers. The finale was particularly dramatic with a thunderous display performed to Gustav Holst's "Jupiter", from the "Planets". This was a most fitting piece of music, since the winner of the competition will receive the "Gold Jupiter" award.

There were many novel effects, some of which I have seen used before by Lancaster, and other completely new effects. Throughout the whole display much use was made of Roman candles, some launching small shells, then 10-15 4" shell burst at a medium height followed by a climatic burst of several 8" shells at great height. Some of the comet stars from the Roman candles had particularly long trails, over 300' would be a fair estimate by comparison with the towers of the adjacent Jacques Cartier bridge.

One unusual effect was that which seem to be creating the sound of tremendous "applause". This seemed to be produced from many small yellowish colored stars which "crackled" rather than exploded like salutes. Talking of salutes, there were many instances of what can be best described as "whirling bangs". These appeared to be stars giving out white sparks in a rotating sort of fashion, terminated by a salute. This gave the effect of "curls" of white sparks followed by many loud reports. This were used both from shells and Roman candles.

Another unusual effect, carried out by the previous weeks' contestants, but to much better effect by Lancaster, was that of the shaped starbust shell. This typically produced (in the previous cases) a single circle of stars. This week, Lancaster managed to produced two concentric circles of stars, one large and one small. It is quite common to have stars change color several times, eg, from white, to green to red etc. Lancaster took this idea along a new direction by including black as a star color! The effect is difficult to describe but here goes. Half the stars in a shell change from black to silver, whereas the other half change from gold to black. This looks as though there are two separate bursts coming from exactly the same place.

Lancaster also made extensive use of whistles. The sound of several hundred or thousand whistles simultaneously is quite tremendous.

Another unusual effect was one which I have christened the willow tree. This starts out as a normal globular start burst. However, instead of the stars burning out before they start to fall, as is normally the case, the stars last few seconds of burn produced a trail of sparks which appeared to fill the sky with long trailing "leaves", the whole effect appearing to create a weeping-willow in the sky.

As well as aerial fireworks, there were quite a few large fountains used, no doubt complementing the lakeside firing area. However, my vantage point was such that it was difficult to see what was happening on the ground. It looked as though the fountains were producing sparks up to a height of several tens of feet though.

All in all, it was a fantastic display, with the finale being particularly brilliant.

Here is a report of the highlights of the last four weeks of the Montreal International Fireworks competition. I've seen so many displays recently that it is becoming difficult to find anything new to describe, so these descriptions are relatively brief.


Spain -- June 26, 1993

Pirotecnia Caballer

This display contained a few new effects which I haven't seen before. One of these gives the impression that a cluster of stars is falling slower than it should do, but not as slow as stars on parachutes. The stars themselves appeared to be quite small so perhaps this was the reason why they didn't fall as fast as "normal" stars.

Another interesting effect as a variation on the "twinkling" or "firefly" stars which have been described before. In this case, the flashing effect was much slower than the normal twinkling stars, and the stars themselves seemed much larger and brighter. Also, there were different colored flashing stars produced, red and green been the most noticeable.

Another interesting effect were the shells which burst into perhaps 50 or more small shells which then filled the sky with stars.

From an overall point of view, the display was not as well choreographed as it might have been. Some members of the crowd started to leave when it seemed as though the display was over. However, it was not and the finale was incredible. There must have been of the order of 1000 shells shot in the final two minutes, culminating ing in a tremendous barrage of salutes.

If it hadn't have been for the finale, I would only have classified fied this display as mediocre, especially since earlier on in the display, a particular effect would be repeated to the point of tedium.


Holland -- July 4, 1993

JNS Pyrotechniek

This display was good, but there was nothing that was especially different in itself. The only thing that comes to mind is the use of comet stars to mark the path of a shell.

The choreography was pretty good however, with the theme of the display being a "train ride through Europe" and music appropriated to each country.

The finale was OK, but nothing special, especially when compared to Spain.


Germany -- July 11, 1993


This was also a good display, and I would place it higher than Holland. Particularly effective use was made of the "twinkling" stars with many dozens of shells being fired in a very short time. The effect was to completely fill the sky with "fireflies". There must have been several thousand stars burning simultaneously.

The finale was unusual in that it ended with a line of stars on parachutes.


China -- July 18, 1993

Sunny International

This was an interesting display for several reasons. Firstly, there were quite a lot of shells which exploded far too low, throwing burning stars to the ground. Secondly, there were colors produced which I haven't seen before. Particularly unusual were the very strong violets and purples and the deepest blues I have ever seen.

As with Spain, China also used shells which burst into many dozen smaller shells first. Also interesting were the "shaped" bursts which produced "bow" like effects. In common with many of the entrants this year, single circle bursts were produced, though seemingly with a much smaller bursting charge than some companies required.

The finale was incredible with more shells being fired in the final minute than the whole of the rest of the (30 minute) display put together.

If it wasn't for quite a significant number of shells exploding too low, then China would probably be in a strong position to win the competition.


France -- July 25, 1993


This was a very good display, though there were no effects different to those used by any of the other competitors. However, there were a couple of mis-fires, including some shells which appeared to explode in the launch tube.

One overall criticism of the display was the choice of music and the way it seemed to be unrelated to what was actually being fired.

However, the finale was incredible - especially for a salute enthusiast. There must have been several thousand salutes fired in the last five minutes of the display - including some which could be FELT as a thump in the chest. I was unfortunate enough to be downwind about 2500 of the firing site. When the display had finished, the air was filled with thousands of pieces of shattered paper and cardboard, and the cloud of smoke which had formed was enough to obscure a large part of the downtown area of Montreal. Plus the ash and general crap in the air had made it difficult to watch the latter part of the display - this is not a criticism though.

Other notable points were the really good blues, purples and reds used in some of the shells, plus some good whistles too.

Overall, I rated the display one of the best of the competition, if only because of the number of salutes used!


1993 results: