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LOUNGE => Gear / Equipment / Instruments => Topic started by: XyloCub on December 07, 2008, 10:44 AM

Title: 1812 Overture Cannons
Post by: XyloCub on December 07, 2008, 10:44 AM
Hey all!

   I am preparing to setup a performance of the 1812 Overture (arranged for concert band.) My director is insistent on having a real cannon for the performance, but we will be performing inside in an auditorium. Any suggestions for a good, auditorium safe substitute? (And yes, we want to avoid using bass drum or gong. We want the real cannon sound.) Thanks!

~XyloCub
Title: Re: 1812 Overture Cannons
Post by: Jon E on December 07, 2008, 10:49 AM
Sample.  and a PA.
Title: Re: 1812 Overture Cannons
Post by: Mister Acrolite on December 07, 2008, 11:05 AM
I seem to recall seeing a symphony perform this by firing a shotgun filled with blanks into the opening of an empty 55-gallon oil drum.

But that was in the 70s - I suspect many auditoriums will have some rather stringent rules about the use of firearms...
Title: Re: 1812 Overture Cannons
Post by: Chip Donaho on December 07, 2008, 11:37 AM
Sorry, in the Army band we used a real cannon fired by an honor guard.
But in rehersal used a bass drum muffled by hand.  :)
Title: Re: 1812 Overture Cannons
Post by: Chris Whitten on December 07, 2008, 02:38 PM
I don't think this is the kind of thing you want to approach in an amateur way.
Apart from any other safety concerns, you don't want the bang of a cannon to blow your ears out, or give someone in the audience a seizure.
I would look for a local firework or pyrotechnic company. Someone with a lot of experience setting off contained explosions indoors.
Otherwise, the sample idea is tops.
Title: Re: 1812 Overture Cannons
Post by: Bart Elliott on December 07, 2008, 03:13 PM
Personally, I would use a recorded sample of a canon ... and trigger it ... plus have a good PA with nice subs.  ;D

I've performed this piece live outdoors ... in fact did it on the 4th of July several times ... with real canons which were positioned a sizable distance away. And it wasn't some percussionist firing them off; it was military or licensed individuals.

Indoors? No way would I use a real canon ... or firearms.

You could take the pyrotechnic approach, but that can be costly. Here in the USA, you'll have to get permission from the Fire Marshall who has to come out and inspect the premise as well as your set-up. I've played in bands that used pyrotechnics, and the Fire Marshall is always there prior to the show. You have to test everything with the Fire Marshall there. It's tedious.

As someone who was just a few steps away from having their own Pyrotechnic License (I worked outdoor theatre as a lighting director and assistant to a licensed pyrotechnician), I would not recommend going the route of using pyro or firearms indoors. This day and age, with terrorists and crazy people at an all time high, it simply isn't worth the hoops you'll have to go through to make this happen, especially indoors. The risk is too high for the small reward. To have anything combustible, even an open flame, has to be approved by the Fire Marshall first, or you'll get big fines, jail time ... or both.

Tell your director that you can't always get what you want. Use a really big Concert Bass drum off-stage or behind the audience. There are ways to achieve the effect without killing everyone's hearing (or worse). Gunfire indoors will drown out the band/orchestra to the point you won't even hear the music. Even with my ear protection at the firing range, I am still blown away at how loud a firearm can be ... ESPECIALLY indoors!
Title: Re: 1812 Overture Cannons
Post by: Showguy on December 07, 2008, 07:48 PM
Regarding the use of a shotgun or other firearm:
This may just be an urban myth, but the story goes that an orchestra was going to perform the 1812 using the shotgun/barrel setup. The President of the United States was in attendance. When the time came for the cannon to be fired, and the percussionist reached for the shotgun, he felt the hands of quite a few Secret Service agents on him. That performance was cannon-less.
The keyboard/cannon sample is used quite frequently even by professional orchestras when indoors. A friend of mine that has played it used the C and G below middle C as the "pitches".
Title: Re: 1812 Overture Cannons
Post by: Dave Heim on December 08, 2008, 10:51 AM
I too have seen groups use the shotgun-firing-blanks-into-a-55-gallon drum method.  The 55-gallon drums were mounted on wooden supports that held them at about 45 degree angles.  Very effective.  Though Bart's points about safety and security should be heeded.  It's nothing to mess around with these days.

On the lighter side of the issue, my musical comedy group uses this method :) . . .

http://www.stlukespr.org/Bband/xbbandletterman98.ram

We use two-liter 7-up bottles connected to a compressed air tank.  Each has it's own release valve.  Standard cork stoppers with small streamers attached for visibility.  CBS added the baby powder for the cameras after rehearsal.  There's an audio guy with a boom-mounted mic just out of sight in front of the tables.  He moved the mic to each canon just prior to firing.  The sound system was tweaked up to push the bass.
Title: Re: 1812 Overture Cannons
Post by: Dave Heim on December 08, 2008, 11:02 AM
Regarding the use of a shotgun or other firearm:
This may just be an urban myth, but the story goes that an orchestra was going to perform the 1812 using the shotgun/barrel setup. The President of the United States was in attendance. When the time came for the cannon to be fired, and the percussionist reached for the shotgun, he felt the hands of quite a few Secret Service agents on him. That performance was cannon-less.
The keyboard/cannon sample is used quite frequently even by professional orchestras when indoors. A friend of mine that has played it used the C and G below middle C as the "pitches".

Sounds myth-ish/urban legend-ish to me.  The Secret Service would have swept the place and put the kabosh on the gun well in advance of the show.
Title: Re: 1812 Overture Cannons
Post by: paul on December 08, 2008, 12:19 PM
I've never liked hearing 1812 performed with real cannons.  In most cases the cannon is much too loud and the timing is usually off, too.  A concert bass drum with a hard felt mallet, or wood if you have it, will be plenty loud and cannon-like.

When I was in high school our concert band played this piece, and in early rehearsals the director was unhappy with the sound our bass drummer was getting.  Mr. Brandon kept telling Tom to play louder, but it was never enough.  After four or five tries the 5'6" Mr. Brandon put down his baton, walked all the way around the band to the drum section, took the beater from Tom, laid into the drum and made what was then the loudest sound I'd ever heard from a single drum.  Everyone in the band jumped in their seats, even seeing it happen.  He then said, "That's what I want."

Tom got the message.