Introduction

Music at Buckfast Abbey

Music plays an important role in the life of the Abbey, whether it be Gregorian Chant sung by the Monastic Community at the Daily Office, or choral music sung by the Abbey Choir at the Solemn Mass. The Abbey is a centre of musical activity in Devon, with a popular series of concerts and organ recitals.

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Music Lists

Music Lists

The current Music List is available to view here.

An archive of previous music lists are available to view below:

Trinity Term 2019
Lent Term 2019
Advent Term 2018
Trinity Term 2018

Abbey Musicians

Philip Arkwright — Organist & Master of the Music

In September 2013, Philip was appointed Organist and Master of the Music at the Abbey. Philip, originally born in St Helens, Merseyside, spent the previous twelve years at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

Philip graduated from Liverpool Hope University, with a combined honours degree in Theology and Religious Studies, with Music.  During his time at university, Philip was Organ Scholar at the University St Catherine’s Chapel, and also sang as a Choral Scholar at the Metropolitan Cathedral.

After graduation, Philip was appointed Organ Scholar at the Cathedral for two years, which then led to his subsequent appointment as Assistant Organist. During this time, Philip was pleased to be involved in many areas of the liturgical life of the cathedral;  as well as the daily opus Dei (the daily round of choral services), Philip participated in television and radio broadcasts, CD recordings, concerts, and choir tours to Canada, Germany, France, Holland and Ireland, as well as venues in the United Kingdom.

In 2008, Philip embarked upon an exciting project, in conjunction with the Cathedral Choir School, to found a choir of girl choristers, giving girls the opportunity to benefit from a chorister education. The girls’ choir very quickly matured, and under his direction was recognised as the leading choir of girl choristers in the country.  The girls’ choir also developed a series of broadcasts, recordings and tours.  Interestingly, the last tour Philip organised with the girls’ choir and lay clerks of the cathedral, was to Buckfast Abbey.  Philip was pleased that the Abbey was the last place he ever conducted the girls’ choir, in his new post!


Matthew Searles — Assistant Master of the Music

Matthew was appointed Assistant Master of the Music at Buckfast Abbey in April 2018. Alongside the accompaniment of the monastic community in the Divine Office on the new Ruffatti organ, Matthew works with the Abbey Choir and has particular oversight of the new provision of choristers, drawn from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School.

Prior to this, Matthew spent two years as Sub-Organist of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, where he accompanied the Cathedral Choir in the daily liturgies, on the iconic Walker organ in the largest Catholic church in England.

Matthew is an award-winning graduate of Royal Holloway, University of London, where as an undergraduate, he received First Class Honours and the Driver Prize for ‘outstanding musical performance’. As Organ Scholar at Royal Holloway, Matthew worked under Rupert Gough with the acclaimed Chapel Choir, whom he accompanied in regular services, concerts, recordings, broadcasts and tours. These included appearances at St John’s Smith Square, St Martin-in-the-fields, live on BBC Radio 3 and on multiple discs for the Hyperion label. In his final year Matthew played for the ceremony in celebration of the music department Regius Professorship, in the Presence of H. M. the Queen.

Matthew continued his studies, in both the organ and the harpsichord, at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Poitiers, France. His teachers have included Andrew Reid and Olivier Houette. He is an Associate of the Royal College of Organists.

In addition to his duties at Buckfast, Matthew is Musical Director of the Brent Singers and maintains a full and varied schedule as a recitalist, continuo player and conductor.

Abbey Choir

The Abbey Choir

The Abbey Choir in its present form was founded in 2009 by its first Director of Music, Michael Vian Clark. The choir has since developed a wide repertoire, specialising in the early polyphonic music of the sixteenth century – ranging from the English school of composers such as Taverner, Byrd, and Tallis, as well as composers of the continental schools such as Palestrina, Victoria and Philips. Complimenting this early music, the choir also sings a repertoire from the French romantic tradition, by such composers as Widor, Vierne, Langlais and Duruflé. In addition, the choir enjoys the challenge of performing the contemporary music of the modern Roman Catholic composers James MacMillian, Roxana Panufnik, as well as our composer in residence, Dom Sebastian Wolff OSB.

In 2013, Philip Arkwright was appointed as Organist & Master of the Music at the Abbey. The choir has continued to develop and attracts semi-professional singers from across the region and beyond. The choir recorded its first professional disc in 2014, on the Priory record label, singing the beautiful and ancient Gregorian chant office hymns in use by the Monastic Community at Buckfast.

In addition to singing at the weekly Solemn Mass and on feast days, the choir gives two concert performances per year. The choir is composed of eight sopranos, four altos, four tenors and four basses. Prospective applicants for the choir should contact Philip Arkwright (Organist & Master of the Music) 


Choristers

Choristers

In 2018, Buckfast Abbey celebrated 1000 years since its foundation. As a lasting legacy, the Abbey now offers the opportunity for 25 boys and girls aged between 7 and 11 to be part of our Choral Foundation in partnership with St Mary’s Catholic Primary School.

The choristers rehearse before school on a Tuesday to Friday and after school on a Thursday. They sing the Office of None at 3pm on most Sundays during school term time (as indicated on the music list), and occasionally for other services and concerts. The choristers also join the Abbey Choir from time-to-time to sing at the Sunday Solemn Mass, and for other liturgies and concerts throughout the year.

Each chorister receives a scholarship from the Abbey for individual vocal, piano and theory tuition with the Abbey’s professional tutor. Each chorister also works towards singing and theory exams for the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music.

For more information about Choristerships at Buckfast Abbey or to make an informal inquiry, in the first instance parents of children who attend St Mary’s School are encouraged to contact Matthew Searles (Assistant Master of the Music), who is always happy to receive enquiries from parents of potential choristers.

Concerts

Concerts

The Abbey is a centre for the arts (and particularly sacred music) in the South West, hosting a busy and successful concert series. As well as the Abbey Choir, which gives three concerts annually, the Abbey is used as a base by a number of local choirs. The Abbey has sublime acoustics and is an inspiring building in which to make music. 

To download a copy of our Concerts & Organ Recitals Brochure for 2019, click here.

Grand-Orgue Recital: James O’Donnell

Saturday 21st September 2019, 19:30 | £15.00 / £10.00

Organist & Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey, James O'Donnell presents a thrilling programme including J. S. Bach's Partita diverse sopra ‘Sei gegrüßet, Jesu gütig’, extracts from Messiaen's cycle L'Ascension, culminating in Maurice Duruflé's Suite, ...

 

Rushmoor Male Voice Choir: Music for Male Voice Choir

Saturday 28th September 2019, 19:30 | £10.00

Rushmoor Male Voice Choir present an eclectic programme of sacred music including an arrangement of Mozart's Ave Verum corpus by Morley Glover which was commissioned by one of our baritones, Mark Sleep, to celebrate the life of choir baritone Niall Shalloe.

 

...Please click here for more forthcoming concerts at Buckfast Abbey

If you would are interested in bringing your choir to sing as part of the concert series, please email Matthew Searles at



Pre-Concert Two Course Meal

Attending a concert at the Abbey? Why not make an evening of it by taking advantage of our pre-concert dinners or snacks in the Grange Restaurant. Accommodation is also available in the idyllic setting of Northgate House, at a reduced price for concert goers. Call 01364 645630 quoting 'Concert Offer 1'

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Recordings

Recordings

The first review of the recent Abbey Choir CD recording from Mark Sealey of Music Web International:

"This is a compelling collection of over twenty Hymns of the Divine Office."

"There is a certainty and confidence in each relatively short work."

"The directness and clarity achieved by the Choir of Buckfast Abbey under Philip Arkwright amply support this plain purpose."

"They preserve the beauty and richness of both text and melody - largely by appealing to the lucidity of the melody coupled with the import of the text."

"Arkwright, who was born in 1983 and appointed Organist and Master of the Music at Buckfast in 2013, keeps a tight ship. One knows at least that one is in good hands."


"The works are of great beauty and convey a certainty."

"The acoustic is the oft-recorded one of Buckfast Abbey, Devon - which is a modern reconstruction dating from the early part of the twentieth century - with a beautiful balance of resonance and penetration."

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Christe Redemptor Omnium - preview
Lustris sex qui jam peractis - preview
O Lux Beata Trinitas - preview
Veni Creator Spiritus - preview
Vexilla Regis Prodeunt - preview

Visiting Choirs


Visiting Choirs

Located on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, and having residential facilities on site, the Abbey is a superb venue for a choir tour. We welcome visiting choirs to sing at the 10:30 Conventual Mass when the Abbey Choir is not in residence.

For all enquiries, please email: