Wednesday 7 September 2011

EIF 2011 - The Fireworks Concert

On Sunday evening the Edinburgh festival reached its spectacular conclusion with the fireworks concert - over three quarters of an hour, some one hundred thousand fireworks were launched from the spectacular setting of Edinburgh's castle, timed to live musical accompaniment from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. It is quite something to witness.

Joining the queue in mid-afternoon secured us a prime viewing spot in Princes Street Gardens (alas not affording a view of the SCO, but this consideration was trumped by a perfect and unobstructed line of sight to the castle). We then settled in for a nice picnic while the sky steadily darkened until things were ready for ignition at 9pm - this is the moment in the year when I realise the long summer nights have gone.

The fireworks concert is an epic endeavour, not simply due to the quantity of pyrotechnics which have to be released by Pyrovision, but in the complexities of co-ordinating the music. Spare a thought for the poor soul who spends the entire gig with their head buried in the score to ensure all the fireworks are cued at the correct time (about two and a half seconds before the musical note occurs). Indeed, spare a thought for the orchestra and conductor, who don't get to see the results of their labours either.

All these forces, from conductor Gary Walker and the SCO to the many unseen hands, ensured that Keith Webb's designs matched the music well, especially in the Arabian dance from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. In general the music, ranging from Sibelius and Nielsen to Glinka and finally Borodin, was well chosen and a distinctly more fitting accompaniment than last year's film music, which didn't always work.

The waterfall

There were some tremendous effects, from old favourites (such as the waterfall, pictured above, and probably the only thing I captured better this year), to projectiles launched horizontally, which one assumes was safe. Certainly it was dramatic. Andy Catlin, the Queen's Hall's resident photographer, captured it far better than me:

Virgin Money Fireworks Concert - Sun 4 September 2011 -0141

You can find the rest of his superb photos here. Indeed, so fine are they that I think I'll have to include a second:

Virgin Money Fireworks Concert - Sun 4 September 2011 -0161

The weather, with crystal clear skies, was actually arguably a little too perfect. The almost total lack of wind meant that a huge amount of smoke built up around the castle, slightly obstructing the view (though with it drifting slightly westwards, those who'd elected to observe from Castle Terrace were doubtless choking a little). That said, the way the exposions illuminated this smog seemed to make for an even brighter finale than usual.

In the end, there's nothing quite like it. You can view all my photos via the slideshow below or by clicking here.

The SCO's blog has an excellent background on what goes into the fireworks (part one and part two). I'm rather sorry to have missed a tour of the castle and set up which the festival organised for bloggers, but sadly it seemed arranged at the last minute and was timed to clash with the opening of Die Frau.

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