Sheet Music DPF’s of This Arrangement Available at:
Be Thou My Vision Sheet Music for Trumpet Duet
Dallan Forgaill, Mary E. Byrne, Eleanor H. Hull
Arr: Eddie Lewis
Time for another Trumpet Hymn Duet. This one is called Be Thou My Vision and is a favorite of many people. I actually got a request for this hymn for my Unadorned Trumpet Hymn series from a high school student who said it was his favorite hymn! For a high school student to have a favorite hymn at all is a very encouraging thing.
This trumpet duet arrangement of the lovely hymn is written for intermediate trumpet players. The highest note in the first part is B flat above the staff and the highest note in the second part is G above the staff.
My Thoughts About the Hymn’s Lyrics
My favorite part of the lyrics is in the beginning of the fourth verse:
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,Be Thou My Vision – beginning of verse four
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
I remember when people used to call the world we live in a “rat race”. People doing what is good for themselves creates this “dog eat dog” world where everyone is trying to get more than their share of the piece of the pie.
As Christians, we live in that world, but we are not “of that world”. I have heard many pastors preach about how we live “behind enemy lines”. We live in this world where everyone is trying to get more for themselves, but we are not supposed to be part of that.
We are not ruled by money (riches I heed not). We are not governed by popularity (man’s empty praise). God provides for us and His provision takes us out of the rat race and puts us in a place where we are no longer limited to a piece of pie.
The world says that there is only so much wealth and that wealth must be evenly divided. My God says that there is no limit to wealth other than within our own minds. And as such, we need not eat any dogs along the way. For as long as we rely on our Heavenly Father to provide, we have every one of our needs right there within our grasp.
“Slane” Irish Folk Song
The melody for Be Thou My Vision is taken from an ancient Irish folk song called Slane. That’s part of what gives this hymn such an endearing sound. There is a reason why old folk songs survive as long as they do. They appeal to an older part of us. They appeal to that part of us that is actually repulsed by technology. The old folk songs help us feel, for a moment, what life was like long before there were smart phones and world wide connectivity.
As an arranger, it is now when I must admit that this arrangement was the most difficult (and therefore the most exciting) duet in this series for me to write. In this Trumpet Hymn Duets series, I try to stay as close to the “original” harmonies as possible. The reason I do this is because I want the duets to be 100% appropriate for traditional church services.
The problem with Be Thou My Vision is that it is an Irish folk song and doesn’t fit in with traditional hymnody. I could actually SEE the original arranger’s struggles as I work on my trumpet duet arrangement. The melody doesn’t lend itself well to traditional four part hymn writing.
That said, I believe this is precisely one of the reasons WHY Be Thou My Vision is so endearing to so many people. I believe that when we struggle with problems this way, in the composition process, it makes our music more human and therefore more endearing.
I think this is true with the original hymn, as we know it today. The modern version of Be Thou My Vision was composed in 1912. I mention this because most people think that it is hundreds of years old. The melody, Slane, is hundreds of years old. The lyrics are hundreds of years old. But the hymn as we know it is only about a hundred years old. And yes, I believe that the arranger’s struggles are part of what make that hymn so endearing.
And to a much smaller degree, I also think that my own arrangement has some of those qualities to it, because of similar struggles.
Dealing With Compositional Struggles
I remember posting one time on facebook about a composition I was struggling with. I wrote that I had painted myself into a corner and that I LOVE when that happens because some of the most beautiful and most highly creative music comes out of that. And that’s how I approach it. I don’t go out of my way to create problems. I’m not saying that. But problems happen. And yes, often it feels as if I had painted myself into a corner.
What was interesting was that another composer had commented on my post saying that, yes, sometimes he paints himself into a corner and then he just throws the entire thing away and starts over.
That’s a very sad thought to me. Almost all of my best writing happened in the context of getting out of those tight spots. When I contemplate the number of pieces that I’ve written that are what they are because I stuck with them until I found solutions, it’s just very sad to think those pieces wouldn’t exist today as they do.
I guess I just do things differently to other people.
Trumpet Hymn Duets vs. Unadorned Trumpet Hymns
I know it can be a little confusing. I am publishing two hymn series right now, and both of them are trumpet duets. The first one is the Unadorned Trumpet Hymns series, which has been going now for several years. The Trumpet Hymn Duets is newer, only officially becoming a series last year.
Unadorned Trumpet Hymns are completely unedited and embellished hymns (thus the word “unadorned” in the title of the series). When I record the Unadorned Trumpet Hymns, I add nothing other than what is written in the original hymn. I don’t even add an “amen” at the end, unless the written hymn has one.
In contrast, the Trumpet Hymn Duets are more embellished with interesting compositional elements. This arrangement of Be Thou My Vision is one of these duets. For this series I am adding counterpoint and modulations and fanfares and introductions, etc.
Even though the two series are distinct from each other, my work with the Unadorned Trumpet Hymns has helped me appreciate the value of arrangements that do not cross the lines of appropriate church materials.
Be Thou My Vision Lyrics
Here are the full lyrics for the hymn:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.