Firefighter's Prayer

Joelle Wallach

About this work:


 “The Firefighter’s Prayer” poem has been displayed on the windshields of fire trucks and on firehouse windows around the United States 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 personal heroism.


The words of “The Firefighter’s Prayer” are particularly poignant in the aftermath of September 11th as the courage of each individual firefighter has been obscured in part by the meanings since ascribed to those events.


Touched by the traditional words, I found a melody hidden inside the prayer, built on elements of Irish folksongs of loss and longing.  


The stark contrast between the prayer and what we know to have been its fulfillment infuses the folk-like music and poem with a stark dignity and a deep lyrical tenderness. (In fact, the crushing irony of the prayer’s dramatic fulfillment on September 11th is so great that in many New York City firehouses the prayer has been removed, a subtle sign of many quiet, communal crises of faith.)


“The Firefighter’s Prayer” exists in several versions: a solo song with piano or strings, a duet, or a 4-part choral version.


The choral setting of the “Firefighter’s Prayer” hymn also serves as the basis of a larger, dramatic projected work for orchestra, chorus, solo voice and speaker, While Hope Remains.



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.


Year composed: 2001
Duration: 00:05:00
Ensemble type: Voice, Solo or With Chamber or Jazz Ensemble:Solo Voice with Keyboard
Instrumentation: 1 Piano, 1 High Voice
Instrumentation notes: Also arranged for: SATB chorus and piano, SATB chorus and strings, Tenor solo and strings, Baritone solo and piano, or Baritone solo and strings.

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