Image: The Choir of Westminster Cathedral in concert at the Abbey
Buckfast Abbey has gained a reputation as a vibrant centre of culture and arts in the South West, particularly for excellence in its programme of sacred music.
This year, alongside showcasing local choirs, the Abbey will host three organ recitals by performers of international renown. On 24 June, Parisian sensation, Frédéric Blanc, puts the Abbey’s Ruffatti organ through it’s paces in a French programme which concludes with an improvisation on themes submitted by the audience. Nathan Laube, Professor of Organ at the Eastman School of Music in New York, makes an appearance at the Abbey on Saturday 22 July, which is sure to be a musical tour-de-force. Choral and orchestral highlights of the season include the University of Exeter Chapel Choir’s performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor on 1 April, and the Schola Cantorum of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London who sing Fauré’s haunting Requiem on 1 July. Several of these concerts are preceded by a two-course meal, available in the Abbey Conference Centre, and the Abbey’s on-site hotel, Northgate House, offers accommodation for those wishing to spend more time in the peaceful atmosphere of the Abbey’s beautiful grounds.
Music forms part of the Abbey’s core mission and ministry, and recently appointed Master of the Music, Matthew Searles, is keen that all of its musical endeavours of the Abbey are oriented towards the glory of God in this sacred place, which is grounded in a thousand years’ worth of Catholic musical heritage. The Abbey has two choirs: a professional, mixed, adult choir which sings a wide repertoire of sacred music, ranging from Gregorian chant and polyphonic music of the sixteenth century to more contemporary repertoire, at Sunday Mass & Vespers. This is complemented by a choir of choristers; boys and girls aged between 7 and 14 from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Buckfast, who sing Mass on Thursday evenings in term time. All of these services are live streamed on the Abbey’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/@BuckfastAbbey), which allows a wider audience to experience the beauty of the music and liturgy here.
Image: Master of the Music, Matthew Searles, plays the Abbey’s Ruffatti organ (credit: Matthew Johnson)
The Abbey established its own in-house record label, Ad Fontes (www.adfontes.org.uk), in 2020, which now has ten recordings and several YouTube premieres under its belt. 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), drawing a link with the book of psalms and the deer which roam the banks of the nearby River Dart. The label is dedicated to presenting recordings of the finest sacred music alongside showcasing the new organ which was installed in the Abbey Church in 2018. This year, the world-renowned Choir of Westminster Cathedral will record their second album for Ad Fontes, of music for Easter, and a disc of French sacred song recorded by the celebrated soprano, Sarah Fox, will be released in the summer.
Image: Master of the Music, Matthew Searles, directs the Abbey Choristers in concert.
Buckfast Abbey is conveniently located midway between Exeter and Plymouth, just off the A38. Home to a community of Benedictine monks, the Abbey offers a unique, tranquil ambience, and is open seven days a week to the public. For more information about music at Buckfast Abbey visit www.buckfast.org.uk/music
Buckfast Abbey Church is open from 7.45am - 8.20pm (7.00pm on Saturday), the gardens, and Visitor Welcome Centre are open 10am - 4.30pm daily; on Sundays open 11.30am - 4.30pm. The Abbey Church, car park & gardens are free to the public. Located at the centre of a picturesque valley on the…