In 1986 the El Salvadorian armed forces launched a helicopter attack on a small village in the valley of Rio Sumpúl in order to intimidate the impoverished peasant inhabitants. Men, women and children huddled together in their huts to escape the hail of bullets raining down on them. Miraculously, no-one was killed. As the terrified villagers gradually emerged, stunned and bruised their parish priest began to imitate the helicopters, transforming their movements into noise into a strangely comical dance.
Startled children began to copy him and follow him around the village in this instantly improvised ritual. Gradually the terror of the helicopter attack began to fade as people rejoiced in the relief that their lives had been spared, as priest and children and mock-helicopters wound their way through the village and out into the countryside. An exorcism was in progress.
The original version of this work, using single strings, was commissioned by the Paragon Ensemble for the Glasgow 1990 City of Culture celebrations. The revised larger version was first performed in 1992.
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer