Festival fireworks finale to set musical record

The Fireworks Concert from Edinburgh Castle is set to mark the end of the Edinburgh Festival 2014. Picture: TSPL
The Fireworks Concert from Edinburgh Castle is set to mark the end of the Edinburgh Festival 2014. Picture: TSPL
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THE man in charge of Edinburgh’s festival fireworks finale has revealed it will involve the longest ever piece of music to be performed at the event.

Keith Webb, who is celebrating 30 years of working on the Edinburgh Castle spectacular, said a record 16-minute sequence would round off this year’s Edinburgh International Festival.

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, written to celebrate Russia’s defeat of Napoleon, will be the climax of the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert.

Webb, whose company Pyrovision stages displays around the world, is responsible for the firing of more than 400,000 fireworks from Edinburgh’s best-known landmark, with tomorrow’s show expected to be seen by more than 250,000 people from various vantage points across the city.

Webb said: “It’s very common for the 1812 Overture to be set to fireworks, but normally only a few minutes are performed. We’re going to have the full thing.

“It’s very unusual for us to have a piece of music as long as that.


“We carry out safety checks between each piece of music, which can sometimes last a couple of minutes, although we do them all the way through the show.

“However if something catches fire we need to get out there with a bucket of water and put it out, so we have gone out on a bit of a limb this year.

Webb has been involved in all but two of the fireworks concerts, which see dramatic displays timed to coincide with a performance by the 55-strong Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

He said: “When I first started working on the event, we just had two vans full of equipment and came in to set things up the day before the event.

“We must take up around 10 times as much space on the castle now as we did then and it takes us seven days and 15 people to set everything up.

“The timings between what we do and the orchestra have also become much tighter over the years. A lot of people don’t actually believe there is a live orchestra playing. It puts us under a great deal of pressure, but it’s the kind of pressure we welcome.”

Other pieces of music due to be performed in the 45-minute show including Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, Mendelssohn’s War March of the Priests from Athalie, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Debussy’s Marche Écossaise.

Webb added: “The music will always dictate the style of the show. It infuriates and irritates me that people ask if it will be the same show as the previous year. It’s different every year and I like to think of it as an artist painting a picture.

“The whole concert this year is inspired by the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

“It’s a very different show this year from some of the previous display. It’s going to be simpler, more raw and less reliant on computer technology. It will be more about just grabbing people’s feelings about conflict and reconciliation.”

Tickets for the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, which starts at 9pm on Sunday, are still on sale.