Fireworks choreographer designs a masterpiece

Music combining with magic in the sky on July 1 downtown

The pyrotechnic display unleashed in the Inner Harbour on July 1 will have some new features

The pyrotechnic display unleashed in the Inner Harbour on July 1 will have some new features

This Canada Day, viewers of the Inner Harbour fireworks will be treated to a show unlike past July 1 extravaganzas.

New to the display this year are roman candles and “cakes” – recently approved fireworks containing several devices that fire low to the ground. In combination with the traditional high-firing rockets, the overall presentation will be a “tableau,” says Peter Gebraad.

As owner of ProFX, the company that has staged Victoria’s fireworks show for the past 11 years, Gebraad is a pyrotechnic artist – a choreographer responsible for designing the show and matching it to music.

He’s proud of this show, he says, because viewers appreciate shorter, more intense displays more than longer, drawn-out ones. It doesn’t hurt, he adds, that the city is “one of the most picturesque locations in Canada for fireworks.”

Gebraad uses a computer program called Pyrodigital to co-ordinate the complex show.

As the music track plays, the shells are pre-fired so they’ll go off on a specific note. But it takes a few seconds for the fuse inside each firework to burn to the centre before it bursts – the program factors in a time delay so they match perfectly.

The music was provided by the winner of a KOOL-FM contest and mixed by a local DJ. The mix, which had to be 10 to 15 minutes long and feature contemporary Canadian songs, created a bit of a challenge for Gebraad.

It contains some spoken word poetry, and he can’t figure out how to fit it into the show.

“I’ve never designed fireworks to a poem before,” he says.

But he’s not worried. Having done fireworks shows over the past 16 years for NHL teams, the Calgary Stampede and musicians such as Katy Perry – she had a hit last year with her song “Firework” – Gebraad specializes in syncing up pyrotechnics to music.

He just hopes there isn’t a breeze.

“Wind is our only enemy,” he says, because of the potential for the debris to fly through the air.

But the shells that hold the fireworks are equipped with “lock-outs” that can be activated so the fireworks won’t go off if conditions are too dangerous, and he says the wind in Victoria has never been a problem.

“The skies will rip on July 1, you can be assured of that.”

The first fireworks light up the sky at 10:30 p.m., after the final musical show on the legislature stage.

For more information, visit www.victoriacanadaday.ca.

intern@vicnews.com

All day fun

• Activities run all day July 1 on the legislature lawn. Live music by Current Swell, Vince Vaccaro, Quoia and Fred Penner (3 to 10:20 p.m.)

• Kids can decorate a 12-foot mural with their favourite things about Canada (noon to 4 p.m.)

• 3,000 people are needed to create a living version of the country’s flag. To take part, show up at the legislature at 2 p.m. and get a free T-shirt.