Album inspired by Sukumaran’s ‘final hours’

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Pete Lyon, front, and Nigel Featherstone at work.

WHEN the “CityNews” editor asked me in December for a list of the top five art events of 2018, there was no hesitation in the visual arts choice.

For “Another Day in Paradise”, paintings by the executed drug smuggler, Myuran Sukumaran, was on the list, and as we wrote it was: “A poignant and provocative exhibition… evoking a sense of hope and reconciliation along with the sense of futility at a life wasted.”

Now two Canberra region artists, writer Nigel Featherstone, whose novel, “Bodies Of Men”, has just been published by Hachette and singer-songwriter member of the acoustic-pop duo, The Cashew, Pete Lyon, have collaborated on a musical project inspired by the same exhibition, launched on social media over the weekend.

Myuran Sukumaran’s final painting, “Indonesian Flag”.

Featherstone explains that early last year, the arts centre had invited him, along with other artists, to spend a day sitting in “Another Day in Paradise” in an event called “The Final Hours”. Later he conceived the idea of a song sequence.

“I decided to invite my old friend Pete Lyon to join me,” Featherstone explains, adding that although they’d first met in a Canberra student house in the ’80s, they’d never collaborated before.

Together, with professionally mixing and mastering by Canberra audio engineer Kimmo Vennonen, the pair released a Bandcamp album, also titled, “The Final Hours”.

“These songs would never have been written without the invitation from the Tuggeranong Arts Centre,” Featherstone says.

“It enabled us to connect with Sukumaran’s paintings in a profound way.”

Lyon created the original song sketches, while Featherstone, an experienced librettist, provided the words and some of the music.

“Even though we both have a longstanding position on the death penalty, we were not making a protest album – our goal was to make a suite of secular hymns,” Featherstone says.

“We also chose to limit our musical palette to piano and acoustic guitar… as raw as possible.”

While all songs were re-recorded, they kept one sound they’d heard in the gallery, a drone, part of a soundscape that accompanied the painting, “Indonesian Flag”.

“I was surprised by how life-affirming the experience was,” Lyon says.

“I’d expected it to be confronting, uncomfortable and depressing, and in many ways it was, but it was also uplifting and hope-filled.”

“The Final Hours” is now available at All proceeds will be donated to an Australian art-in-prison program.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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