About Exeter Philharmonic Choir

Director of Music Howard Ionascu
Associate Director of Music Stephen Tanner
Honorary Patron Countess Cecilia Rodrigo
Honorary President
The Lord Mayor of Exeter


Exeter Philharmonic Choir, which has around 120 members, has a long tradition of singing a wide range of choral music, old and new. It presents three major concerts a year and two evenings of Christmas carols in Exeter Cathedral. The choir always performs with professional orchestras and soloists to maintain its quality of music making.

The choir was founded in 1846 and gave its first concert in 1847, a performance of Handel Messiah, since when it has provided concerts in Exeter every year. The choir performs music ranging from the Renaissance to the 21st century and from large choral works to Christmas carols. It has also toured in Spain, Germany and the Isle of Wight, recorded two CDs and given a concert of
JoaquĆ­n Rodrigo’s music in London’s Royal Festival Hall.


Musical highlights

Most recently, the 2019-20 season began in October 2019 with a concert of English and American music at Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth, followed by two carol concerts in Exeter Cathedral featuring the Winchester College Quiristers and Chaconne Brass. In March 2020 the choir returned to the Cathedral to perform Beethoven Missa Solemnis, accompanied by the English Chamber Orchestra. This was the last concert to be held in Exeter Cathedral before the national lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking back to more normal times, the choir’s 2018-19 season included a debut appearance in Exeter’s Northcott Theatre in June 2019, performing Rossini Petite Messe solennelle and Brahms Liebeslieder-Walzer. Exeter Cathedral was the venue in March 2019 for a performance of Haydn Creation with the London Mozart Players and international soloists, and also in November 2018 for Bruckner Mass in E minor and John Rutter Requiem.

Howard Ionascu was appointed as the choir’s Director of Music in September 2017. His first season in 2017-18 included a Mozart concert in Exeter Cathedral, featuring the Requiem and the Clarinet Concerto, and a concert of French and English music at Buckfast Abbey, accompanied by its superb new Ruffatti organ.

The choir celebrated its 170th anniversary season in 2016-17 with three masterworks in Exeter Cathedral – Handel Messiah, Verdi Requiem and Elgar The Dream of Gerontius, the latter work being chosen by Andrew Millington for his last performance with the choir before his retirement as its Director of Music.

Other highlights of recent years have included a nautical-themed concert in March 2016 featuring Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony and the first performance of Andrew Millington The Seafarer, based on an Anglo-Saxon poem from the unique 10th-century Exeter Book. In 2012 the choir joined with the Scottish National Orchestra and Exeter Cathedral Choir for the first recording of the Lazarus Requiem by contemporary composer Patrick Hawes.

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