1998 l'International Benson & Hedges Montréal Pyromusical Competition Report
Italy Ballet of fire Saturday June 6th, 1998
Unseasonably cool cloudy weather, following a record breaking hot spring, was the backdrop to the start of the 14th edition of the Benson and Hedges International Pyrotechnics competition in Montréal. Last year's Gold Jupiter winners opened the competition with a fabulous display in five thematic parts. A collaboration between the Naples firm, with more than 85% of the fireworks specially constructed for this display, German designer Joachim Berner, and an American Pyrodigital computerised firing system, promised to deliver a performance to equal their top ranking display of last year.
Introduction to the music Fanfare for the Common Man by Emerson Lake & Palmer. The display opened to an enormous multi-multi break shell of spider comets in silver and gold with volleys of salutes. Then more multi-breaks of charcoal comets turning to silver and glitter comets turning to silver fireflies.
Part 1 to the music The Second Waltz by Shostakovitch and Circus Renz by G. Peter. Comet candles in fans with blue and red ball candles opened this segment. A line of mines of small clusters of blue stars fired one by one in perfect synchronization to each note of the music. Then brighter mines from a platform in the centre of the lake appeared to give the impression of dancing. Another line of mines of clusters of violet stars again in note-by-note synchrony. Next, shells of a special type of tourbillon giving the impression of an expanding flower of white petals, something which I've previously described as similar to a scallop shell. Then more of the same but with pistils of blue stars and then even bigger shells with double rings of the tourbillons. These were repeated again and again, getting larger and larger, culminating in a large shell of comets turning into coloured balls. Next, note-by-note synchronized mines of slowly rising gold glitter, followed by mines in dazzling yellow. Then another line of the mines of blue cluster stars, with the colour and comet shells above forming the shape of cauliflowers, the comets being the "leaves". Next, more of the special flower tourbillon shells with blue pistils, some with single petal rings and then double petal rings and pistils. Finally, another line of note-synchronized mines with a massive multi-break white comet spider shell above.
Part 2 to the music Funiculi Funicula by a Napolitan composer and La Traviata - Brindisi by Giuseppe Verdi. This up-tempo section opened with lots and lots of fast breaking comet shells and multi-breaks with sequentially timed breaks of comets. This sequence was repeated over and over. Then a line of ball candles, with the balls breaking to a crackling noise. Above these, big multi-breaks of red comets turning to silver. Next, more of the crackling ball candles with more big multi-breaks above of comets and colour stars turning to white comets. This sequence was repeated again and then followed by more shells of the fast moving comets. Next, a note-synchronized line of dazzling bright mines with large white comet shells above and more of the large cauliflower shells. Moving into the second piece of music in this section, huge shells with half the stars in one colour and the other half in another, such as gold and blue, pink and aquamarine and then barrages of titanium salutes. These were interspersed with large multi-break comet shells and candles of tourbillons. Then shells of charcoal comets turning into colour stars and more large multi-break comets. Next, more of the charcoal comet to colour shells with white comet candles below. The pace increased somewhat with huge multi-breaks of white comets and steel blue stars. Next, candles of colour stars and glitter comets in fan shapes with large cauliflower shells above. These increased in intensity and were followed by multi-break spider shells of white comets, then huge pistil shells in various colours and white followed by even larger multi-breaks and a barrage of titanium salutes.
Part 3 to the music Peer Gynt - Suite No. 1 by Edvard Grieg, Dances of the Swans by Tchaikovsky and La gazza Ladra (the theiving magpie) - overture by Rossini. This section opened with beautiful gold comet candles with cauliflower shells above. Then shells of mixed colours turning to silver. This theme was repeated several times and moved to huge shells of pink turning to silver. Next, large pistil shells in white with white comet candles below, more and more cauliflower shells in many colours finally culminating in some huge weeping willow shells, but with silver trails rather than charcoal - completly filling the air, to gasps of amazement from the audience. The Dances of the Swans began with a line of white fountains and several volleys of nautic fountains fired into the lake which appeared to dance on the surface of the water like serene white swans. Next, mines or candles of brilliant orange hissing tourbillons with shells of small white comets above, followed by gold and white. Behind these, large shells with whitish gold rising tails bursting into burnished palm trees, followed by glitter shells and culminating in large golden weeping willow shells, filling the sky. The final segment in this section opened with a line of single star mines in aqua in note-by-note synchronization to the music. Then candles of crackling tourbillons, with crackling colour bombettes above. Another line of note-by-note synchronized mines, followed by a line of red mines then a line of dazzling yellow. Charcoal fountains opened in front of the lake with note-by-note mines of purple stars moving from left to right followed by a front of the same moving very quickly from right to left as the music played a trill. Beautiful glittering gold candles with small shells of brilliant gold glitter turning to gold fireflies gave the impression of ballet dancers in the sky performing pirouettes. This was repeated several times before moving to shells of blue and gold, getting larger and larger, then cauliflower shells and shells half gold and half blue. More fountains opened over the lake with candles of crackling colour which sounded like applause. Then several large titanium salutes were launched - it seemed that they had been lofted too early to be in sync with the music but each salute burst exactly on the beat it was supposed to - absolutely incredible. Another line of note-by-note synchronized mines and then several large silver girandolas rose majestically into the sky. More note-by-note synchronized mines with brilliant gold firefly shells above, repeated over and over. The pace increased with large pistil shells with multiple colour changing stars and comets, shells of fast comets and then more large pistil shells with red to blue changing stars. These were rapidly followed by shell after shell of dazzling white fireflies followed by enormous multi-break spiders shells in blue and white which burst exactly on cue, to screams of delight from the audience. This was pyrotechnic perfection.
Part 4 to the music The Gypsy Baron March by Johann Strauss; Adieu my Little Gardofficer by R. Stolz and Under Thunder and Flash by Johann Strauss. Strauss' uptempo march opened with two huge multi-break shells followed by the giant flower tourbillon shells then another huge multi-break comet shell in gold which turned to gold fireflies. Then shells of ball stars, shells of blue stars with gold comet trails with bombettes of the flower tourbillons below. These increased in size and number and then were followed by line after line of synchronized mines with shells of white comets and salutes above. More lines of mines, fast comet shells above and barrages of titanium salutes followed by mines of small silver cluster stars and multi-break shells of red and green comets above. Next, mines of charcoal comets which turned to silver and went hissing into the lake, followed by huge weeping willow shells which turned to silver completely filling the air. Next, mines of gold glitter stars with multi-break charcoal and glitter comets above which turned into gold fireflies. This theme was repeated, but with white comets and fireflies followed by colour stars with charcoal comet trails. Multi-breaks of blue and white comets were followed by gold glitter shells, then large charcoal comet and colour shells. The intensity increased with glitter comets turning to fireflies, cauliflower shells in all sorts of colours, then firefly shells with glitter and flower tourbillon bombettes below. Stolz's music lead to the impression that we had reached the finale with huge shells of the flower tourbillons, barrages of salutes, more flower tourbillon shells with red and blue pistils and single and double petal rings, lots of cauliflower shells and large barrages of salutes. However, this was only a fausse finale. The true finale was set to the appropriately titled Under Thunder and Flash by Strauss. It is difficult to describe the intensity. The two minute finale began at a terrific pace with multi-breaks of all sorts, cauliflower shells, flower tourbillon shells, with enormous salute barrages going on at the same time. The pace kept increasing and increasing with massive chest-thumping bottom shots embedded in the apocolyptic looking salute barrage tearing the heavens assunder; the shots being powerful enough to actually move my clothes. Incredibly, the pace increased still further. Surely a vision of the end of the world, the sky was being torn apart by thousands of thunderous salutes and other enormous shells and multibreaks. After a moment's darkness and silence, a dramatically deafening and blinding barrage of gigantic salutes brought the apocolypse to a conclusion, leaving the audience screaming in terror and delight.
People were visibly shaken. It was a tremendous finale to a truly incredibly piece of pyromusical
art. Flawless synchronization and a brilliant choice of material make this display as close to
pyrotechnic perfection as I have ever witnessed. It doesn't get better than this. This is going
to be a fantastic year's competition once again! Back in the press room, the Italian team
received a well deserved standing ovation. Looks like they will pick up another Jupiter this year.