Wisconsin Composer Series: Brian McLinden

As we lead up to our April 18th concert featuring music by Wisconsin composers, we are profiling some of the composers and their pieces that we are featuring. We hope that you come out and join us at Alverno College Chapel on April 18th at 7 p.m.!

Brian McLinden

Brian McLinden

Brian McLinden: “Introduction to the Songs of Innocence”

Brian McLinden received his Bachelors and Masters degrees in music theory and vocal performance (respectively) from the University of Notre Dame. Today he resides in Milwaukee, where he has been the director of the Bach Chamber Choir since 1993. He has also performed in the area with the Bel Canto Chorus.

His piece “Introduction to the Songs of Innocence” commissioned by Bonnie Scholz of the Pius XI High School music department for the school’s Madrigal Ensemble.

“While I was searching for a text, a dear friend and musical colleague who was familiar with my setting of  ‘The Lamb’ suggested I should revisit William Blake’s collection of poems Songs of Innocence since ‘The Lamb’ came from that collection,” McLinden said. “I was familiar with the set but had never read all of the poems. When I looked them up my eye caught the very first poem ‘Introduction to the Songs of Innocence,’ where the speaker is piping joyfully down the valley and is startled by a child on a cloud who  laughing said to me: ‘Pipe a song about a lamb.’ I realized I had to start with that poem since, if you follow it carefully, it actually explains where ‘The Lamb’ came from. So, even though I wrote ‘The Lamb’ first, ‘Introduction to the Songs of Innocence’ is a actually a prequel of sorts.”

As he was writing “Introduction,” McLinden wondered to himself what sort of melody the piping speaker in the poem would be playing as he wandered along the alley. He took the first six notes of his piece “The Lamb,” sped them up and changed the meter to six, and that gave him the basis for the piece’s flute ritornello.

“One of the first things that struck me about the text was the fantastical idea of the narrator having a conversation with a boy on a cloud, so I decided at that point that I had to let the flow and meter throughout be just as fanciful and capricious,” he explained.
“Introduction to the Songs of Innocence” is, fittingly enough, the first piece on our concert and a sort of “introduction” to the rest of our repertoire. It features our own Sarah Stein on the flute.
We hope that you enjoy “Introduction to the Songs of Innocence!”

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