While Hope Remains [18.5']

for SATB chorus, chamber orchestra, tenor soloist and speaker, [1-1-1-1, 1-0-0-0 2, perc, harp, strings]
Letter from Captain James Gormley

Letter from Captain James Gormley

Firefighter's Prayer chamber score

Firefighter’s Prayer chamber score

Firefighter's Prayer score

Firefighter’s Prayer score

The original hymn on which the larger structure of Joelle Wallach’s While Hope Remains rests uses the traditional words of The Firefighter’s Prayer. While Hope Remains is scored for orchestra, chorus, tenor soloist and speaker. Its text is drawn from memos and recollections of the surviving men and their captain at Engine Company 40 as well as from The Firefighter’s Prayer, itself. Of Engine Company 40 and Ladder 35, all but one of the men who responded to the World Trade Center alarms on September 11th , 2001 never returned. The surviving firefighters’ eloquent expressions of their losses and their shock—and the stark contrast between the prayer and what we know to have been its fulfillment—infuse the music with a stark dignity and a deeply lyrical tenderness.

On the windshields of fire trucks and firehouse windows around the United States, copies of the traditional Firefighter’s Prayer are glued. For generations, its traditional words have had personal meaning to firefighters across the continent, a core of faith for lives built on daily acts of bravery and heroism. Touched by the traditional words, I found a melody hidden inside the prayer, built on elements of Irish folksongs of loss and longing.

In the afterglow of September 11th, the words of Firefighter’s Prayer are profoundly poignant; and the stark contrast between the prayer and what we know to have been its fulfillment infuses the music with stark dignity and deep lyrical tenderness. The crushing irony is so great that in some New York City firehouses the prayer has been removed, a subtle sign of quiet, communal crises of faith.

Essay on the larger work in progress:

While Hope Remains: Envisioning the Music, A Composer’s Response to 9/11

The Firefighter’s Prayer:

When I am called to duty,
Whenever flames may rage,
Give me strength to save a life
Whatever be its age.

Help me embrace a little child
Before it is too late
Or save an older person from
The horror of that fate.

Enable me to be alert
And hear the weakest shout
And quickly and efficiently
Put the fire out.

I want to fill my calling
To give the best in me
To guard my every neighbor,
protect his property.

And if according to Your will
I must answer death’s last call
Bless with Your protecting hand
My family one and all.