The secrets of displaying fireworks to music

This 5 November thousands of organised firework displays will take place across the country, many set to music, but how many people watching will be aware of the precision and the hours of planning needed to create a truly spectacular display?

The art of matching music to fireworks is an intricate job and every year some of the most skilled pyrotechnic practitioners compete at the British Musical Fireworks Championship in Southport.

Judges mark competitors on synchronisation, mood and flow; patterns, colours, effects and, of course, music.

Technical aspects of the display like timing and the overall design are also taken in to account when selecting the winner.

Competitors spend hours mulling over their arrangements and ensuring the synchronisation of music with the fireworks.

Every year millions of people watch fireworks for bonfire night.

Tempo and emotion

Trevor Whichello is director of Distant Thunder Fireworks, crowned winners of the 2019 event, "I spent around six months from start to finish with the concept to arrange the music with the fireworks," he said.

Mr Whichello, who is a classically trained musician, created a display featuring a selection of Abba songs and tunes from musicals, "You don't need to be a musician to do this, but you do have to have a passion for music," he said.

"I thought about the emotions and the guilty pleasures of songs that people enjoy."

"There is a musical element to this too, you have to think about the tempo and see what works with whatever emotion you’re trying to evoke."

Displays are created in "colour sequence" with a myriad of colours and effects and barrages and cakes - essentially fireworks displaying almost simultaneously - adding the the overall effect.

"We have access to fireworks that the general public don't, so we can do a lot more," Mr Whichello said.

Fireworks display at Victoria Park in Southport for the The British Musical Fireworks Championship.

Computer programmed timing

Once the music is arranged it is then inputted into computer software, where fireworks can be sequenced and timed to the music.

All of the songs and firework effects are programmed in advance, and managed on the night by a technical team, who run the display seen by the public and the panel of four judges.

Computers play a key role in bringing to life a designer's musical firework display, "We have software that can shorten or extend the fireworks and we time it to the music," Mr Whichello said.

For the 2019 Southport display, which won his company the championship, Mr Whichello looked for a song he felt could combine with the fireworks to close the show in spectacular fashion, "I ended the fireworks with Never Enough from The Greatest Showman, because I felt it has the right tempo and is full of emotion," he said

Sefton Council host the annual event in Southport every autumn and announce the competition entry dates as early as January.

People gathered around to see the competitive musical fireworks display at Victoria Park, Southport.

Where next?

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