Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

It’s a cracker pace as the fireworks contest hots up

Posted by Kimberly on September 22, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
September 22, 2007, page 4 (1,218 words)

There are sure to be some members of the audience watching the fireworks tonight that won’t expect much of a competition. After all, on the one hand, there’s Taiwanese team, San Tai Fireworks, who have not only placed I 2005, but also won in 2003.
On the other hand, you’ve got Five Star Fireworks, the Australian team that will be competing at the Macau festival for the first time.
But never let it be said that the Australian team are coming in as underdogs. That’s hardly the case from where they’re standing.
“Just by being here it’s going to give us respect but when we take first prize it’s going to give us more,” said Ian Thomasson, Managing Director, who added “I’m a positive person!”
It’s a matter of pride and respect for this team.
“I think that by not only Australia knowing we represented them but the world knowing, gives you a bit more respect.
“To say we represented our country and, shall I be bold and say, came first!
“Then we’ll get a bigger respect. You have to sell yourself.
“You can’t say we can do this with fireworks without them knowing that we can deliver,” he said.
The Australian team are going in the direction of culture, matching classic tunes to displays that reflect them.
“We tailored it in the sense that the theme we’re using is Australian music. We’re trying to emphasise this, saying ‘this is our music and our culture,’” said Ian.
“What we’ve tried to do is look at the music such as the Aboriginal piece and use glowing red, to go with the image of a fire.
“It’s very central Australia.
“The Waltzing Matilda we’re going to use the green and gold which is our team colours. Ones where they talk about love, there’s hearts, pretty pinks and lemons.
“We’ve tried to blend the colours and effects to what the song’s about in a sense,” he said.
So Australian music will move through the times, from Aboriginal, to Waltzing Matilda, AC/DC, Kylie Minogue and Wolfmother, among others.
And, as with the previous teams, Five Star will also be using some fireworks for the first time in this event.
“We’re using water shells of a type that we haven’t used before. We can launch them into the water and they fire from there. We’re using multi-shots of a type we haven’t used before,” said Ian.
Based in the northern part of Queensland, the company has been involved in everything from weddings to Australia-wide shows.
As for Macau, they’ve been preparing since March, when they first received the invitation to come over.
“Marrying up the music with the display is the hard work. It’s not physical but that’s the technical side of it,” said Ian.
And that technical side extends for an exact 17 minutes and 10 seconds of display.
Asked what the group’s thoughts were on the use of a barge in the event, Ian agreed that it was a better idea than one where crowd control was an issue.
“Barges are good because they’re protected.
“You’d have to have security to stop people from coming close to see what you’re doing.
“There’s a little more planning involved when on a barge, because once you’re out there that’s it. There’s a large frontage for people to view it,” he said.
But he added that “we get to emphasise the colours as they reflect off the water.”
But the real emphasis, according to five star, will be at the finale, although that’s all they would say on the topic.
The music is generally upbeat and, according to the team, will set them apart from the rest. Apparently, gone are the days of the overture or classical music.
“I suppose we want to be different,” said Ian.
San Tai Fireworks managed to place in the top three in a year where they had only three days prior to competition to get used to their new equipment.
That’s because 2005 was the first year they had used both a display and music combination.
“We’ve got plenty of experience now,” said Jaime Huang, Assistant Manager, who added that the company had just completed a very big fireworks show last week.
“For the competition in 2005, it only took me two weeks to do that.
“That’s because our company is not only doing the fireworks, we also have to manufacture them, so we’re very busy,” she said.
The company specialises in toy fireworks, where September happens to be the busiest time for them.
Asked how she managed with such a short one month taken to prepare for the show, she said, “no problem. We got used to that.
“Normally western countries will have more time, like half a year, but not us.
“Maybe it’s the cultural difference or something, but we can prepare two or three weeks ahead,” she added.
She recalls getting some very good advice after the 2005 competition, where they placed third.
“We had the best show but the reason we did not get the first prize is because we did not choose the best music to perform with the show.
“This time we changed. We focussed on the music that would combine very well with our fireworks,” she said.
“We tried to choose which music was nice to perform in Macau because I don’t know where those judges are from,” she added.
For her, it’s about “touching the judge’s hearts”, so she ended up with classical music and a few Taiwanese tunes.
San Tai, which has been going for 25 years, is famous, said Jaime, for their cartoon shows.
“Last year was the year of the pig so we had a show with a pig’s head. It’s always our speciality compared to other manufacturers,” she said, pointing out that their advantage lies in the fact that “we are also Chinese so we understand what they like.”
Luck certainly was on their side during 2005 though, as, despite a typhoon hitting Macau, they went on with the show and placed.
“They [the organisers] were thinking about cancelling it or not but we insisted on finishing it because of the judging, we could not postpone it for another week as we had another event,” she recalls.
Like the Australian team, San Tai will also be using the advantage of the barge to show the Macau audience “something special.”
“This year we’ll be using the water shell. In the past competition they did not allow us to use it. But from last year they agreed to that so we will try and use it,” she said, adding they show will last for 18 minutes and 40 seconds.
“I always thought that the beauty of the firework will look refreshing on the water,” she said.
“For me, it’s not only a competition. The most important thing is we come to see others’ shows,” said Jaime.
And so has the Australian team, in the end.
“For me, I’m looking forward to how other companies prepare their shows and use their products and displays and music, so it’s probably fact-finding,” said Ian.
Regardless of the expertise, experience or showmanship of the teams, Macau audiences can be certain of two things: that no typhoon has been predicted to occur tonight and that they can expect to be thunderstruck.

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