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. 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 for 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) 


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 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.

Concerts

Concerts

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 2019, click here.

Voces: On This Rock

Saturday 16th November 2019, 19:30 | £10.00

Following closely from the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, this concert focuses on music written by the Lateran’s various musical directors during the Renaissance ...

 

RSCM Advent Carol Service

Saturday 30th November 2019, 16:30 | Free Entry

A 'Come and Sing' Carol Service for Advent sung by associated choirs of the Royal School of Church Music.

 

...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.

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Ad Fontes

Ad Fontes

Ad Fontes is a record label founded by Buckfast Abbey dedicated to presenting superior 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 years for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God). For more information, visit www.adfontes.org.uk.