Ancient Scenes

  • Title Ancient Scenes
  • Year 2014
  • Instr fl,cl,vn,vc,pf,perc,soprano solo
  • Duration 28 min
  • Categories Vocal, Chamber
  • Publisher ACA
  • Texts Seamus Heaney

Piano-Vocal score available for rehearsal purposes

“There were several sources of inspiration for Ancient Scenes, and it is a more programmatic work than most others I have written. One obvious influence was the beautiful poetry of the late Seamus Heaney, Ireland's Nobel Prize-winning poet. The second was a visit to the ancient town of Auvillar, France, where I was invited to spend a week as composer-in-residence at the Etchings Festival in 2010. The town had an ancient market area dating back to Roman times, and also had been (and is still today) a stopping-off point for pilgrims en-route to a sacred shrine in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. I envisioned the development of such a town in its early stages. The instrumental movements (I Origins, II Constructions, V Journeys: Pilgrims, Prayer, Conflicts, Reconciliations) suggest a chronological trajectory. The songs (II, III, VI, and VII) are stops along the way. The first poem takes its cue from the sound of a crowd echoing through an ancient coliseum; the second accompanies a dance (sounding more Irish than French to my ear) that might have been performed as festive entertainment. The third song is a reflection on the fragility of the human condition, and the last paints a portrait of a still harbor shimmering in the light. There are seven movements (some connected) and the work lasts approximately 28 minutes.” LK

First Performance:
The Washington Square Ensemble
Sharon Harms, soprano
Louis Karchin, conductor
Tenri Cultural Institute, NYC, April 12, 2014


world premiere of ANCIENT SCENES, The Washington Square Ensemble, Sharon Harms, soprano, with the composer conducting, April 12, 2011, Tenri Cultural Institute, NYC


Louis Karchin’s Ancient Scenes, with the composer conducting the core group, and the composer’s daughter, soprano Marisa Karchin, who has a lovely voice. Aside from the Krimitza, this was the most purely contemporary piece on the evening. It’s challenging, yet attractive in the best modern sense. There’s a real urgency and sense of forward motion to the instrumental movements presented superbly, as usual, by this fine ensemble, wonderfully supplemented by the precise playing of percussionist [John] Ferrari, who somehow managed a substantial battery of sounds and devices in an almost choreographic manner.

James Grant, SoundWordSight (10/2019)

The last piece on this most colorful concert was a seven-movement work for the entire ensemble, conducted by composer Louis Karchin, with three sections sung by the splendid soprano Marisa Karchin. This was a voice almost entirely in the upper register, confident, emotional when necessary, dramatic when needed, and—most important—articulated with diaphanous clarity. The piece ran for 25 minutes, ….all of it in Mr. Karchin’s own aether. Yet these words and these sensations, if not as tactile as the words, reached—if we allowed it—another level of our consciousness

Harry Rolnick, (10/2019)