The du Pont family has been fascinated with pyrotechnics for nearly two centuries, which is not surprising since they manufactured explosives. Longwood’s founder Pierre du Pont (1870-1954) was one of the family’s most enthusiastic fireworks impresarios. The interest in both pyrotechnics and fountains that Pierre began nurturing more than a hundred years ago has exploded into arguably the most artistic display of fire and water to be found anywhere.
This year is no exception, and the season’s first of five Fireworks & Fountain Displays will be launched this Sunday, May 24, at 9:15 pm. Entitled Khachaturian Cavalcade, the program features music by Aram Khachaturian. The show includes the tuneful Mazurka, Nocturne, Waltz, Romance, and Galop from music for the 1941 play, Masquerade. The Adagio from the 1956 ballet Spartacus is intensely lyrical, while the well-known Sabre Dance, Dance of the Rose Maidens, and Lezghinka from the 1939 ballet Gayaneh bring the show to a memorable close. As unknown as the titles may be, parts of the program should be surprisingly familiar to many viewers. There will be great contrast between the slower, quieter pieces and the highly energetic showstoppers.
Designing a Masterful Display
I work in conjunction with Art Rozzi and Jamie Deye of Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks, from Loveland, Ohio, to design our Fireworks shows. The design process begins months ahead with choosing the music. I then indicate where fireworks should generally occur during each half-hour show, using unique reference points provided by a SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) time code that runs with the music; specific effects or important musical accents are also noted. The shows are then designed independently on two separate computer systems, one for the fountains and one for the fireworks. Some segments are color coordinated, particularly if it is desired to have all fountains and fireworks the same color. At showtime, the two programs run independently but appear perfectly coordinated because they are linked by the SMPTE time code. Without computers a show of this complexity would be virtually impossible to do.
Additional shows this season will be held thoughout the summer:
Khachaturian Cavalcade, May 24
Founder’s Favorites, July 4
ABBAcadabra: The Magic of ABBA, August 8
Khachaturian Cavalcade, September 6
ABBAcadabra: The Magic of ABBA, September 19