Lunatics at Large – The Sanctuary Project

An exciting selection of established and emerging poets and composers have been commissioned by the New York City based new music ensemble Lunatics at Large to write works on the theme of “sanctuary.” After its multi-disciplinary opening performance at Weill Recital Hall on March 21, 2011, where Lunatics at Large premiered the five commissioned chamber pieces and poets read their Sanctuary poems (which were also commissioned by Lunatics at Large), the program will be re-performed several times in actual sanctuaries (of a church and a synagogue) in New York City and at WMP Concert Hall.

“The Sanctuary Project” features composers André Brégégère, Mohammed Fairouz, Raphael Fusco, Laura Koplewitz, & Alex Shapiro; Their music is paired with poetry by Rob Buchert, Joanna Fuhrman, David Shapiro, Yerra Sugarman, & Ryan Vine.

Lunatics at Large group members include Katharine Dain (soprano), Jonathan Engle (flute), Ben Ringer (clarinet), Arthur Moeller (violin), Jen Herman (viola), Andrea Lee (cello) and Evi Jundt (piano).

Performances of The Sanctuary Project will happen in actual sanctuaries at Christ and Saint Stephen’s Church, 122 West 69th Street, New York City (April 8, 8pm) and at the Synagogue for the Arts, 49 White Street, New York City (April 10, 7pm), and at WMP Concert Hall , 31 East 28th Street, New York (April 21, 7:30pm). Tickets for all April performances are $20 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.

Works are:

Sanctuary by André Brégégère (b. 1975)
Poetry by Yerra Sugarman
>>This piece explores the vivid imagery of Sugarman’s poem and her vision of ‘Sanctuary’ as a repository for the past, embarking the listener on a musical journey through the intricate landscape of our collective memory.

Unwritten by Mohammed Fairouz (b. 1985)
Poetry by David Shapiro
>>Acclaimed composer for the voice Mohammed Fairouz’s latest cycle chronicles the last days and demise of Socrates “the greatest man who ever lived”.

Unsolicited Advice: Four Rules of Your Pal, Ward by Raphael Fusco (b. 1984)
Poetry by Ryan Vine
>>Fusco’s setting of Vine’s “Ward’s Rules” explores the therapeutic powers of laughter and advice whether it is solicited or not.

The Wondering Wayside by Laura Koplewitz (b. 1966)
Poetry by Joanna Fuhrman, David Shapiro, Yerra Sugarman & Ryan Vine
>>In “The Wondering Wayside,” a traveler asks questions of gods and angels, on a journey from desert, to mountains, temple, and across waves, in an impressionistic exploration of a 2lst century pilgrim’s progress.

Unabashedly More by Alex Shapiro (b. 1962)
Poetry by Rob Buchert
>>Each expressive note in Shapiro’s “Unabashedly More” creates a sanctuary for the listener; a safe place in which to experience an emotional journey from lyrically pensive to explosively joyous.

The poems will be read by the poets in between the performance of the chamber pieces. Three of the five commissioned chamber pieces (Fairouz, Fusco, and Koplewitz) include a vocal line – poetry from the participating poets set to music. Some of these poems are new (commissioned for this project), some older works. More information about poets and composers is available at


“The Sanctuary Project is an exploration of Sanctuary, which we all, creative artists, performing artists and public, connect to in very personal and different ways,” says Project Director Evi Jundt, also the pianist in the ensemble. “The creative insight gained through a collaborative process spanning over twelve months between poets, composers and performing musicians will represent a unique artistic investigation, inviting audiences to re-discover and expand their own conception of Sanctuary.”

Of the commissioning and artistic process, Jundt states: “we picked artists whose work we believed would be evocative of the theme ‘Sanctuary.’ First, the poets presented one new poem and some older works to the composers. The composers then chose which poet(s) they felt compelled to collaborate with. Each collaboration happened on its own terms: in one case, it resulted in a group of poems set to music in a song cycle; in another case, the poet helped find examples of folk music to be quoted in the composition. In the next stage, musical compositions served as inspiration for another new work by the poets. Finally, the poets – the initiators of the process – will join the musicians onstage while reading their work in between performances of the chamber pieces.”


Called “young, energetic and finely polished” by Allan Kozinn of the New York Times, Lunatics at Large is a large mixed ensemble combining voice, strings, winds and piano, and was formed in 2007 to explore the timbral possibilities of chamber music repertoire from the beginning of the 20th century until now. In thematic concerts, the group juxtaposes standard repertoire and chamber pieces from established composers of the 20th century with more recent works. Lunatics at Large thus encourages listeners to hear connections between works and appreciate very recent compositions in the perspective of the evolution of classical music over the last 110 years. Lunatics at Large is committed to working closely with living composers and to commissioning new pieces for its expanded Pierrot instrumentation. The group also embraces collaborative projects with artists from other art forms and is organizing several interdisciplinary performances involving poets, living composers and visual artists in upcoming seasons.

The Sanctuary Project is made possible in part with public funds from the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by New York State Council on the Arts, and from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.