Playing with Fire

Fireworks Set Up

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has been celebrating the end of the Edinburgh Festival Season for many years with a spectacular display of fireworks choregraphed to the SCO's live performance with Edinburgh Castle providing a majestic backdrop.  The year, the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert takes place on Sunday 4 September.

Pyrovision is the imaginative team behind the concert's pyrotechnics.  Keith Webb, Pyrovision's Project Director, talks about his part in creating the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert next weekend.

Choreographing the display
I’m given the draft programme first. I listen to the music and judge the tempo of all the pieces, advising the SCO on what will work well with firework displays and what might need to be changed. Four months prior to the show, I get familiar with the music in the programme, listening to it at work and in the car. During this time subconscious ideas start forming and I begin to visualise fireworks that might work with different pieces of music.

Fireworks Set UpI then take one to two weeks to break the music down second by second, planning colours, shapes and formats. These are dictated not only by the music, but by Edinburgh Castle's grounds. I think of what will work with the music, but also what will work from the audience perspective. If the violins have a strong entrance in a particular part of the piece, I will coincide this with a change in the colour or shape of the fireworks. However, the display has to be balanced – I can create intensity, but with clarity, and must ensure I don’t overdo it and overwhelm the music. I start to develop a detailed plan of the display.

I then leave it for a while, continuing to listen to the music and come back to it a month later to fine tune the display. For example, I might decide to change the transition from one colour to another to better fit the music.

When planning the display, it is necessary to balance both artistic interpretation and expectations of an audience who know the music well – they’ll be judging how well the display worked with the live music. This in turn has to be balanced with the 250,000 audience members who may not know the music as well but are expecting a great show. I like to take artistic licence in the last piece of music, which tends to be a bold work, moving colours and shapes around the Castle.

Fireworks Set Up

Sourcing the fireworks
The fireworks we use for the display are sourced across the world, but most of them come from China. I go to the  factories in China once a year to look at their products. I may buy something in advance, waiting for the right music to use it with, or I might request a specific firework to be adapted or developed.

To be continued...

Keep an eye out for Part 2 next week.

Join us for the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert on Sunday 4 September.

Share your fireworks pictures with us - upload them to Facebook, Tweet (#vmfireworks) or email them to info@sco.org.uk.

Images: a pyrotechnician at work, firework set up on the castle grounds, fireworks on the ramparts
© Claudine Quinn

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