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:

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

Abbey Musicians

Philip Arkwright — Organist & Master of the Music

Philip Arkwright is Organist & Master of the Music at Buckfast Abbey. Born in St Helens, Merseyside, Philip began his musical career as Organ Scholar at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and was subsequently appointed as Sub-Organist and Director of the Cathedral Girls’ Choir. Philip graduated with a combined honours degree in theology and religious studies, with music, from Liverpool Hope University, and afterwards with a Master’s Degree in Sacred Music. During his tenure at Buckfast Abbey, Philip has overseen the expansion of the music department to include the new Ruffatti organ, the formation of new choir of choristers, a thriving concert and organ recital series in addition to the establishment of the Abbey’s own record label.  In 2018, Philip directed the Abbey Choir at a number of high profile services and events to celebrate 1000 years since the monastery’s foundation, including a televised broadcast of Midnight Mass – the first such broadcast from a Roman Catholic Abbey.

Matthew Searles — Assistant Master of the Music

Matthew Searles is Assistant Master of the Music at Buckfast Abbey. In this role Matthew shares in the accompaniment of the Abbey Choir and monastic community in the Opus Dei, and has particular oversight of the Abbey’s new provision of choristers. In 2018, at the conclusion of Buckfast’s millennium celebrations, Matthew played for Midnight Mass, which was televised live on BBC One. Prior to this, Matthew spent two years as Sub-Organist of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Matthew studied at Royal Holloway, University of London, where as organ scholar he graduated with First Class Honours and the Driver Prize for ‘outstanding musical performance’. Matthew continued his studies, in both the organ and the harpsichord, at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Poitiers, France.

David Davies — Organist

David Davies is Organist of Buckfast Abbey and Organist at the University of Exeter. He trained as an organist, pianist and conductor at Eton College, Magdalen College, Oxford, and the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale University. David held church and cathedral appointments both in the USA and the UK, most recently as Assistant Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral and Sub-Organist and Director of the Girls’ Choir at Guildford Cathedral. He has given concerts across the USA, Japan, South Africa and in several European countries. He also tutors on organ academy courses and lectures frequently on the intersection of the arts and liturgy.

Abbey Choir

The Abbey Choir

The Abbey Choir in its present form was founded in 2009. 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, and our composer in residence, Dom Sebastian Wolff OSB.

The choir has continued to develop and attracts semi-professional singers from across the region and beyond. The choir recorded its first commercial disc in 2014 on the Priory label, singing the beautiful and ancient Gregorian chant office hymns in use by the Monastic Community at Buckfast. In 2018, at the conclusion of Buckfast’s millennium year, the choir sang Midnight Mass, which was televised live on BBC One. In addition to singing at the weekly Solemn Mass and on feast days, the choir gives three 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) 



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 Wednesday to Friday and after school on a Thursday. They sing the Office of None at 3pm on 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 tutors. 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.



The Abbey is a centre for the arts (and particularly sacred music) in the South West, hosting a busy and successful Saturday evening concert series. As well as the Abbey Choir, which gives two 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 2020, click here.

Dartington Community Choir: I was Glad!

Saturday 29th February 2020, 19:30 | £10.00

A concert of uplifting music for voices, organ and soloists including Hubert Parry's I was glad and David Willcocks' arrangement of Widor's Toccata for voices: Sing!



Trois leçons de ténèbres

Saturday 14th March 2020, 19:30 | £10.00

Couperin's three haunting settings of texts from the Old Testament Book of Lamentations are an undisputed peak of baroque vocal music. The Leçons, performed by candlelight, will be interspe...


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

Before certain concerts there is a two-course fine-dining meal available in the Abbey’s Grange Restaurant at 18.00 for only £19.75. Tickets for a pre-concert meal can be booked online when purchasing a concert ticket, or by contacting the Grange directly on 01364 645504. Anyone attending a pre-concert meal receives a reserved seat for the concert. Accommodation is also available in the idyllic setting of Northgate House, located here at the Abbey. Reduced rates are available for concert goers. Call 01364 645630 quoting ‘Concert Offer 1’ to find out more.


Ad Fontes

Ad Fontes

Ad Fontes is a record label founded by Buckfast Abbey dedicated to presenting recordings of the finest sacred music. Given its roots within the Roman Catholic Benedictine tradition, the label specialises in choral and organ music drawn from that rich heritage, with a focus on the Choir of Buckfast Abbey and the new Ruffatti organ. The name of the label is taken from the Abbey’s motto, Psalm 41: Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus (Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God). For more information, visit