BY CHLOE SANGER
24 Hours in Lapa launch
Tamil Rogeon/Australian Youth Orchestra Momentum Ensemble
The Night Cat, 28 April
Wherever composer Tamil Rogeon pops up, be that in Melbourne or around the world, he seems all at once out of context and yet perfectly in place.
Like many other young people, I recognised Rogeon first as Harvey Sutherland’s violinist, whom I saw at an electronic music festival, Paradise, last year. Seeing a violinist at an electronic gig may be unusual for some, but for those who are familiar with Rogeon’s work, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. His past projects have included a composition for symphony orchestra and turntableists, and a score to the AFL’s 2010 Grand Final titled The Draw, which the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performed in Hamer Hall last year.
24 Hours in Lapa is a 12-part song cycle and Tamil Rogeon’s most recent work. It is a mixture of Brazilian beats, orchestral scoring, diverse vocal performances – from jazz to R&B and rap – and electronics. All these elements are elegantly woven into a record that, as Rogeon puts it, “aims to build in tempo and intensity as it progresses”. Depicting the tragic, true story of Joseph Martin, a young expat killed by an off duty policeman in Rio’s party district of Lapa, the record exudes an other worldly, nostalgic party atmosphere, underpinned with dark premonitions of the protagonist’s fate.
24 Hours in Lapa‘s launch was a dream to see performed live and an ambitious undertaking for Rogeon. The Night Cat, whilst an enormous live music venue by band room standards, had to have the stage extended to fit the 35-piece orchestra, band and mass of percussion. The music really lent itself to being performed in such an interesting space – the stage in The Night Cat is located in the centre of the room and the audience crowded around it. Once in the thick of the performance, the venue felt full, and with the palpable atmosphere of excitement, the moody lighting, authentic Brazilian rhythms and compelling vocal performances, it wasn’t long at all before the audience was dancing – even to a live orchestra.
Rogeon’s orchestral arrangements are subtle and utilize varied timbral qualities both to complement and bolster each song. The orchestral elements are also largely responsible for the dark motifs that weave through the work and foreshadow tragedy in the album’s last moments. The final couple of minutes of the performance were particularly chilling. As the percussive rhythms came to an end and the room quietened, it seemed the audience could feel the death in the room. Interestingly, the final track, O Ultimo Suspiro, is harmonically reminiscent of the introduction to Part II of The Rite of Spring – possibly an influence for Rogeon, having composed a tribute to Stravinsky for the Monash Academy Orchestra in 2013.
The Australian Youth Orchestra’s Momentum Ensemble gave an outstanding performance. Personally, having listened to the record before the launch, Momentum was without a doubt the best orchestra for the job. Orchestra Victoria recorded the score for 24 Hours in Lapa – the professional orchestra has years of recording experience in a wide range of genres, however a majority of its work still lies within the realms of opera and ballet. OV’s rhythms, whilst precise, are a little stiff, and Rogeon has noticeably compensated by masking entries behind the pre-recorded percussion tracks and electro elements.
The AYO Momentum Ensemble is a truly special orchestra. Not only is it made up of some of Australia’s leading young orchestral musicians, but they bring energy and experiences from their lifestyles that connect to this style of music on a deeper level. Their rhythmic sensibilities are more modern and organic because their instrumental experience transcends the practice rooms and concert halls and spills out into popular music and nightlife. With this in mind, it was no mistake that Rogeon chose this venue and this group of musicians.
The record launch was a manifestation of many celebrated elements of the Melbourne music scene. With performances from Allysha Joy, Bobby Valentine and Ryan Ritchie, the AYO Momentum Ensemble, and Rogeon’s own electric violin solos, it was a show of world class performances and a fitting celebration of this new and important work of art.
24 Hours in Lapa was released on Heard and Felt Records in April.
Image supplied. Credit: Tony Owczarek.