A sound installation presented by Music for Galway and Galway 2020 in association with Irish National Opera, in conjunction with the community opera Paper Boat

marking the 700th anniversary of St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church, Galway, Ireland

April-June 2022

On midsummer’s eve in Galway, a young homeless man, and a mysterious mother and a child arrive in St. Nicholas’ Church to claim sanctuary from very different threats. But an army from the past is gathering outside the doors, threatening to repeat the destruction of the city perpetrated by Cromwell’s army centuries ago. Now the people of Galway are being asked to risk their own safety to protect the strangers who have come seeking their aid, and the leaders of the city's tribes must decide.

This twelve-part audio installation, in conjunction with Paper Boat, a new community opera ideated by Mark Duley and originally planned for April 2020, was commissioned by Music for Galway as part of the SoundScapes programme for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, as an element of the celebrations to mark the 700th anniversary of St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church.

Weaving sounds from past, present and future, and featuring material from the opera, a cast of Galway voices and original music, I Claim Sanctuary is a snapshot of a moment in the history of St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church, the year 2020.

The aural content, pitched at low volume level, extrapolates the background and exterior noises of the church in its use of music, natural sounds and voice. At closer range, this material resolves into a dialogue with the opera's themes, among which are those of sanctuary and the church's role as rallying point of refuge and anchor; explorations range from the heritage of the church itself and its congregations, to religious communities in the city and county of Galway, some of whom experienced exile and suppression across the centuries, to the stories of those who live far from home, are in exile or seek shelter here in Galway today.

This work is dedicated to the people and communities whose lives have converged in St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church.