Director of Music Howard Ionascu    
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

With around 100 members, Exeter Philharmonic Choir has a long tradition of singing choral music, old and new. We always perform with professional orchestras and soloists to maintain our quality of music-making.

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.

2023/24 season
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 were the Isca Ensemble, internationally renowned vocal soloists and rising young oboe player Fergus McCready. Handel’s coronation anthem, Zadok the Priest, was followed by Concerto in D minor for oboe, strings and continuo by Alessandro Marcello, when Fergus delighted the audience with his beautiful and virtuosic playing. Vivaldi’s ever-popular Gloria closed the first half, 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.

In December we celebrated the festive season with our regular two nights of ‘Carols in the Cathedral’. Under the baton of director of music Howard Ionascu, the choir performed an exciting and varied programme, including a new carol composed by associate director of music Stephen Tanner, entitled Nova! Nova! The audiences each night joined in heartily with well-known favourites, while guest artist Julian Poore on solo trumpet and Stephen Tanner on organ and piano played superbly. The programme was introduced by Elizabeth-Jane Baldry with fascinating information about each carol.

2022/23 season
Variety was the keynote of our 2022/23 season, ranging from ‘Gloria’, a celebration of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign, in November 2022, to a fascinating journey back to 17th-century Venice in March 2023, with a performance of Monteverdi’s monumental Vespers of 1610. The combined forces of EPC, Devon County Junior Choir, world-class professional singers and the virtuoso wind orchestra of His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, plus period instruments such as theorbo and viola da gamba, thrilled the audience with their spellbinding sounds and technical brilliance.

In between, our two concerts of ‘Carols in the Cathedral’ in December once again brought the joy of Christmas music, with renowned soprano Amy Carson as special guest while Stephen Tanner, our associate director of music, complemented the singing with superb playing on the Cathedral organ. Finally, our summer concert in May was combined with a workshop exploring Sir Karl Jenkins’ choral classic, The Armed Man. The day ended with a moving performance of the work, enhanced by guest musicians on keyboard, trumpet, cello and percussion.

Other musical highlights
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.
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