About this Piece
The Verdala was one of the ships that brought the British West Indian Regiment from the Caribbean to Europe to fight in World War I. Already knowing that I wanted this piece to highlight the BWIR’s involvement in the war, and thinking about titles around the time that the 2018 “Windrush Scandal” surfaced, it seemed fitting to name it so, as a reminder that there have been many ships, long prior to Windrush, interweaved throughout British and British-Caribbean history.
I have been particularly drawn to the writings of Caribbean/Guyanese poet and political activist Martin Carter for many years, who expressed his feelings of the British-Caribbean experience and military presence through powerful and poignant imagery in his texts. Lines from his “O Human Guide” inspired the musical material for Verdala: “In the burnt earth of these years...So near so near the rampart spiked with pain... The guilty heaven promising a star...Each day I ride a wild black horse of terror...”
Intricate interweaving woodwind lines feature throughout, often punctuated by strong raw chords in the strings, recurring chimes in the harp, and initial beating from the claves. Highly direct and rhythmic activity dominates following the opening section, which foreshadows this, except when biting “jabs” give way to a softer, quieter “chorale” in the low woodwinds and brass, before building up again, becoming more unsettled, and culminating wildly and piercingly.