In early 2015, I was approached by Blind Veterans UK and asked to compose and perform a piece for the charity’s Centenary Service to happen later that year in Westminster Abbey. At this time I was also introduced to the first incarnation of the Victory Over Blindness memorial sculpture by artist Johanna Dome-Guyot, or as it was to be affectionately called afterwards, ‘The lads’.
The sculpture shared the same inspiration as the John Singer-Sargent painting Gassed and both proved to be very evocative stimuli for my writing, and the impact and poignancy that they struck me with increased a hundred-fold when I began to research into the charity more and to meet some of the veterans that the charity has helped.
The over-arching perception that hit me the more I delved into the charity and both the painting and the sculpture was the bravery and comradeship that the veterans possessed when confronted with their life-changing injuries; or to put it another way, the positivity with which they attacked these horrific afflictions and the determination to not only overcome challenges that the disability presented, but to incorporate them into the most admirable form of self-improvement.
In the first piece of this album and the one performed at the Centenary, Reach Your Hand To My Shoulder, I set out to try and portray a musical rendering of the journey that a soldier recently blinded in the trenches would have gone through, charting the passage from the initial terror of the injury itself, through the inevitable depression that would be laid upon the sufferer and slowly through the rehabilitation and hard work, finally to end the journey as the victor over blindness.
In the three part piece Visio Nova (A New Vision), I am charting the same journey but in more depth, trying to evoke in the listener what I understand to be the vast palette of emotion that someone embarking on this journey of blindness will encounter. I am also privileged to include a sample of Blind Veteran’s UK member Billy Baxter reading a portion of the poem If by Hastings Brooke, himself a blind WW1 Veteran, in Part 3 of the piece.
I hope that in listening to this music, perhaps with the lights turned off, that my audience will catch a glimpse of the both the turmoil and confusion that such an injury can cause, but more importantly the strength of spirit that these veterans have shown in matching this colossal challenge, and overcoming it.
Blind Veterans UK is proud to mark the centenary of the First World War and showcase the work that the charity continues to do over 100 years later through the unveiling of an iconic sculpture at the entrance to Manchester Piccadilly station.
The sculpture, of seven young soldiers blinded in action and leading each other with hands on their comrades’ shoulders, has been realised by Johanna Domke-Guyot. It is installed where thousands of commuters will see it every day as they stream out of the station and will remind people of the many blinded veterans taking their first steps to rebuilding their lives after sight loss as they returned from the front.
Blind Veterans UK, established in 1915 and formerly known as St Dunstans, supported more than 3,000 veterans blinded in the First World War. However, now it supports over 4,700, demonstrating that the need for its services has only grown.
There are circa 55,000 people in the UK who need our support.
released October 16, 2018
Album written, performed, and produced by Alastair Caplin.
Poem read in Track 4 read by Billy Baxter
Recorded at DADA Studio, London.
Commissioned by Blind Veterans UK, Victory Over Blindness
With his fiddle playing described as “Exquisite, passionate playing” (Scotsman) and his film composing as “Extraordinary”
(The Times) and “One to look out for, a rising star” (Howard Goodall, Classic FM), Alastair has performed his own music in some of the UK's most prestigious music venues including The Royal Albert Hall, Westminster Abbey, The Barbican, and Shakespeare's Globe....more