When the volcano destroyed paradise

In 1995, the Caribbean island of Montserrat was devastated by the catastrophic volcanic eruptions of the Soufrière Hills, which also destroyed the capital Plymouth. This led to the necessary evacuation of a large part of the island. “When The Volcano Blew” is a musical representation of this tragedy with the movements (I. The Awakening of the Montserrat Island; II. Apocalypse at Soufrière Hills; III. The Lost City of Plymouth).

Image: © Marc Szeglat

Increased seismic activity near Montserrat was recorded as early as April 1989. The first volcanically initiated earthquake swarms occurred in 1992 and intensified in 1994 in the Soufrière Hills, before the volcanic eruption began on 18 July 1995 with a phreatic explosion in the Northwest Crater. Subsequently, there were numerous other earthquake swarms, phreatic explosions and the onset of ash rain in the island capital Plymouth. As early as 21 August 1995, the south of Montserrat was evacuated for the first time. Since then, volcanic activity has followed a cyclical pattern with extrusive phases marked by increased surface activity (ejection of magma and growth of the lava dome, dome collapse, volcanic eruptions, pyroclastic flows) alternating with quiescent phases in which eruptive activity paused.

When the Volcano Blew was composed by Tom Gontier. His passion for music and composing drove him to pursue a musical career, which led him to a master’s degree in music at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp in 2016.

As a professional musician, he has performed as a trumpet player with some of the most renowned orchestras in Belgium. His career has allowed him to travel the world, and after a commission in Norway, he fell in love with the country and moved to Ålesund at the end of 2016. Gontier dreamed of composing his own works and founded his own company, Gontier Publishing, in Norway. This allows him to continue his work as a professional musician while creating his own compositions.

All works of Gontier Publishing

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