Paddy Callaghan & Danny Boyle – Be Thou My Vision/Reels

With Adam Brown and Eamonn Nugent, video from Fleadh Live, Derry, 2013. Be Thou My Vision (Lord of All Hopefulness), followed by reels: The Mill House, Sporting Paddy, and Homage to Rooney.

An Irish hymn tune we’ve played before. It’s been suggested we take another run at it during our next “Clayville-Prairieland Academy of Music” slow jam and tune learning session from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at Hickory Glen Apartments, 1700 W. Jefferson St. in Springfield. Good suggestion!

The tune name is SLANE, and it is commonly sung to different texts. Here’s what the website ( says about it:

SLANE is an old Irish folk tune associated with the ballad “With My Love on the Road” in Patrick W. Joyce’s Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909). It became a hymn tune when it was arranged by David Evans (PHH 285) and set to the Irish hymn “Be Thou My Vision” published in the Church Hymnary (1927). SLANE is named for a hill in County Meath, Ireland, where St. Patrick’s lighting of an Easter fire–an act of defiance against the pagan king Loegaire (fifth century)–led to his unlimited freedom to preach the gospel in Ireland. …

Here are the dots, for those who want sheet music:

Melody. Lead sheets with standard notation and dulcimer tab are available on Nina Zanett’s website at It’s worth hanging out there. Nina, who plays quietly intricate fingerstyle Appalachian dulcimer arrangements, has tab for music as varied as “Lillebulero” (a British march that goes back to the 1600s); the African-American spiritual “There is a Balm in Gilead”; “Annie Laurie”; and “Will Ye No Come Back Again,” the Scottish version of the Jacobite song we play as “Mo Ghille Mear.” She has lovely CDs, too.

Chords. For backup dulcimer players, Ron Zuckerman’s tab with standard notation and guitar (dulcimer) chords is available at

Lyrics with chords. On Biblebro website at

And here are the words, courtesy of Wikipedia and free of copyright since they were published in 1912:

English version by Eleanor Hull (1912)

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 Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

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 Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

“The English Methodist version from 1964 omits verse 3,” Wikipedia informs us at The hymn is based on an Irish prayer, of a type known as a lorica or breastplate, and dated between the eighth and 11th centuries. But that’s in the third verse.

At any rate, it’s an old, old Irish hymn.

One of Nina’s tab books for mountain dulcimer players is titled The Quiet Side of the Dulcimer, and the title pretty well sums up her attitude toward the songs she plays. The advice on her website about her arrangements is quite good. It’s certainly appropriate for “Be Thou My Vision.” Both versions:

These arrangements are aimed primarily for the intermediate player. None of the arrangements is meant to be hurried. In playing them, take your time to play expressively and enjoy the intrinsic beauty of the melodies.

She has some good advice for playing in an ensemble, too:

I think that first and foremost, it’s important to listen. By listening carefully, we can identify passages that would sound better if they were played more smoothly, or more cleanly, or more expressively; once we’ve identified passages that don’t feel quite “right,” then we can go back to them, experiment with different approaches, and find ways to play them to achieve a sound that we like. It also helps to isolate troublesome patches and work on them a few notes at a time until they flow comfortably.

Hope to see you Thursday evening.

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