Be Thou My Vision is a beautiful and stately ancient hymn. Based on an Irish melody, it is suited to all instruments. Check out the three arrangements: one for beginning Middle C pianists, one for lead sheet players, and one piano arrangement.
Here is the easy version for beginners, which uses a Middle C hand position. Note that students need an understanding of D above Middle C in order to read this page. However, just understanding "lower to higher" will probably be enough to address that issue.
There is a tiny amount of "hands together" happening in the beginner piano arrangement above; just enough to add some drama (along with the finger replacement of "4" to "3" in the third line) and a welcome bit of harmony.
Alison Krauss sings the beautiful rendition of Be Thous My Vision below:
The piano arrangement and lead sheet come in five different keys. First, the piano arrangement, shown below in the key of G:
My piano version is easier to play than the versions in the hymnals - and prettier too! I have avoided changing chords every beat (one of the reasons hymns can be so hard to play), but have still worked some of the beautiful minor chords into the arrangement.
There is a beautiful effect with suspended chords you can teach your piano students at the end of the second line of Be Thou My Vision. Instead of moving right into the D chord used in the version shown above (measure 8 of the key of G arrangement), play a D suspended chord in one of the following two ways:
(Oh, by the way, those 2 "f" notes in the examples above are both sharps!)
Hymns, with their frequent stops at ends of lines, allow for many opportunities for suspension and resolution (so musically satisfying!) such as the examples shown above. But try not to overdo it. Any musical effect, if done repeatedly, draws attention to itself and becomes a caricature!
Jaime Jorge plays this beautiful hymn on his violin in a moving performance. Wait for it - about 20 seconds in...
I have noticed that "Be Thou My Vision" is always found in the key of Eb, in every hymnal and online music too. It is a hard key for beginners, especially guitarists, fiddlers, and pianists. One of these keys here should suit your young students!
Finally, here is a ragtag-looking band of young men with warm voices, called "Hold the Fermata". I love the arrangement, and the echo-y effect; it makes me imagine a group of monks... but with lots of feeling! Nicely done: