Associate Director of Music Stephen Tanner
Honorary Patron Countess Cecilia Rodrigo
Honorary President The Lord Mayor of Exeter
Honorary Vice Presidents Paul Morgan, Raymond Calcraft, Andrew Millington
Founded in 1846, the choir sang its first concert in 1847, Handel’s much-loved Messiah. Since then we have given concerts in Exeter every year without interruption, despite world wars and pandemics. We have also toured in Spain, Germany and the Isle of Wight, recorded two CDs and performed Joaquín Rodrigo’s music in London’s Royal Festival Hall.
The choir’s 2023/24 season began on 4 November with an evening of glorious Baroque music, played to a sold-out audience in Exeter Cathedral. Joining the choir under the baton of Howard Ionascu were the Isca Ensemble, internationally renowned vocal soloists and rising young oboe player Fergus McCready.
The concert opened with Handel’s coronation anthem, Zadok the Priest, followed by Concerto in D minor for oboe, strings and continuo by Venetian composer Alessandro Marcello. Exeter Cathedral’s acoustics are ideally suited to the bright tones of the oboe and Fergus McCready, accompanied by the Isca Ensemble, delighted the audience with his beautiful and virtuosic playing. Vivaldi’s ever-popular Gloria followed, before the main work of the evening, Handel’s sublime yet challenging setting of Psalm 110, Dixit Dominus, written for five-part chorus, chamber orchestra and soloists.
During the coronavirus restrictions of March 2020 to May 2021, members met virtually on Zoom and, when permitted, rehearsed together in the open air until ‘normal’ rehearsals resumed officially in September 2021. Returning, with much relief, to Exeter Cathedral in November 2021 for the start of the choir’s 175th season, we performed Fauré’s poignant Requiem, and in December sang our customary two nights of Carols in the Cathedral, with Isca Voices as guests. In March 2022 the London Mozart Players joined us in Exeter Cathedral for Brahms’ monumental Ein deutsches Requiem.
Our 2019/20 season had begun in October 2019 with English and American music at Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth, followed by the two carol concerts in Exeter Cathedral featuring Winchester College Quiristers and Chaconne Brass. On March 2020 we returned to the Cathedral to perform Beethoven Missa Solemnis, accompanied by the English Chamber Orchestra – just one week before the start of the nationwide lockdown.
Looking further 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 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 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 Director of Music.
Other highlights of recent years included a nautical-themed concert in March 2016 in Exeter Cathedral. This featured Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony, together with the first performance of Andrew Millington’s new work, The Seafarer, based on an Anglo-Saxon poem from the unique 10th-century Exeter Book, housed in Exeter Cathedral’s Library and Archives. In 2012 the choir joined the Scottish National Orchestra and Exeter Cathedral Choir for the first recording of the Lazarus Requiem by contemporary composer Patrick Hawes.