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  • A Glorious Finale for the 2022 Pilgrims' Chorus
  •  Date Posted: Fri, 12 Aug 2022
    A Glorious Finale for the 2022 Pilgrims' Chorus
    Members of EPC and friends completed their second choral pilgrimage, this year along St Boniface Way, on Sunday 7 August with their final concert in Exeter Cathedral where they had a warm reception from an appreciative audience. 

    Their journey started on Friday 5 August at the Holy Cross Church, Crediton where they performed their first concert.  Early on Saturday 6, the pilgrims sang a few pieces in St Swithun's Church, Shobrooke – and then continued on their way with a beautfiul walk to Newton St Cyres for a lunchtime concert in the Church of St Cyr and St Julitta.  The day finished with a performance in the Church of Our Lady in Upton Pyne and a delicious meal in the village hall.

    Before their final concert in the cathedral, the pilgrims walked from Upton Pyne, climbing up through Stoke Woods to the Mary Harris Memorial Chapel on the university campus to sing a short programme in the chapel's amazing acoustic.

    The pilgrims received wonderful hospitality along their way from the churches and their communities which hosted their concerts.  

    The Programme
    Under the direction of EPC's associate director of music, Stephen Tanner, the  Pilgrims' Chorus sang an eclectic programme of music interspersed with poetry readings.  This year there was music by Byrd, Scarlatti, Bruckner and Elgar along with folk songs set by Holst and Vaughan-Williams and a set of spirituals arranged by Stephen.  And a special feature was a performance of Give me my scallop shell by Andrew Millington – a beautfiul interpretation of Sir Walter Raleigh's words in The Passionalte Man's Pilgrimage.

    Plans are already underway for a third choral pilgrimage in 2023, this time in Heredforshire.
  •  Date Posted: Thu, 30 Jun 2022

    Members of Exeter Philharmonic are about to start rehearsing for our second Choral Pilgrimage, this year along St Boniface Way from Holy Cross Church, Crediton to Exeter Cathedral.

    St Boniface Way is a new walking route which tells an old Devon story commemorating an Anglo-Saxon boy, Boniface (now the patron saint of Devon) who was born in Crediton in 675 and who travelled to a monastery in Exeter to begin his religious training.

    The singers will follow the route which runs the fourteen miles from Crediton along the rivers, fields and churches of the Creedy and Exe valleys before ending at Exeter Cathedral – singing as they go.

    The Pilgrims’ Chorus is again under the direction of Stephen Tanner, our Associate Director of Music, leading an eclectic programme featuring classical composers from Byrd to Bruckner, Scarlatti to Stanford alongside madrigals, folk songs and three traditional spirituals arranged by Stephen Tanner.  There will be a strong West Country flavour, including Andrew Millington’s Give me my scallop shell.

    Do come and hear these ‘songs of the soul’ and meet our travelling singers.  Entrance to each of the concerts is free, though donations are invited.


    Friday 5 August, 6.30 pm. Church of the Holy Cross, Crediton.

    Saturday 6 August, 12.30 pm. Church of St Cyr and St Julitta, Newton St Cyr

    Saturday 6 August, 6.30.Church of Our Lady, Upton Pyne.

    While admission to the Upton Pyne concert is free, with donations welcome, seating is restricted and seats will need to be reserved in advance by contacting Linda Findlay, on, or tel.01392-841402.

    Sunday 7 August, 2.00 pm. Exeter Cathedral (normal entrance fee applies)

                               Free entrance to all concerts – donations invited.
  • Ending the Season with a Swing
  •  Date Posted: Sat, 28 May 2022
    Ending the Season with a Swing
    Stunning, happy, memorable are just some of words used to describe our final concert of the season at Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth.  And this review by David Batty says it all:

    Enthusiasm, Accuracy, Smiling Faces … and Swing!

    When did you last see a large choral society obviously enjoying themselves during a performance?  I don't just mean after the event when the singers are enthusing about an evening's music making, but actually during a concert, with smiles and joy on their faces.  Well, this was certainly the case at the Exeter Philharmonic Choir's summer concert on Saturday 21 May at Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth, and none more so than during the first performance of Stephen Tanner's Jazz Te Deum and Jubilate Deo.

    The concert, conducted by Stephen Tanner, the Choir's Associate Director of Music, focused on the theme of Sacred Jazz, a concept carefully explained in Tanner's programme notes for the occasion.  His new work fused two familiar sacred texts with music in the jazz idiom composed during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.  The Choir brought an infectious swing to the piece enhanced by the combination of saxophone, piano, double bass and drums that provided the instrumental accompaniment.  The beautiful and atmospheric playing of saxophonist Steve Wiltshire was especially effective in sustaining the special jazz idiom that underpinned Tanner's ambitions, but Andrew Downton (piano), Phil Williams (bass) and Ryan Carter (drums) all had their part to play in a successful first performance, which was met with warm and prolonged applause from the large audience.  The work deserves a second outing, and more!

    Earlier in the concert, Stephen Tanner conducted the Choir in three traditional spirituals in his own, effective arrangements (I especially enjoyed Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel?), while he then joined Andrew Downton in a performance of Richard Rodney Bennett's Four Piece Suite: Divertimento for Two Pianos, a lively composition touching on samba, country blues and ragtime, perhaps not helped on this occasion by the heavy bass of the two electric pianos.  The concert had opened with music by Will Todd, a composer who has made a prominent name for himself in a wide range of musical styles including his jazz-based Mass in Blue.  On this occasion we heard another jazz-infused work, four of the six songs that make up Todd's Songs of Peace, quieter in mood than the Tanner work, but well performed by the ever-attentive Choir and the accompaniment of piano, bass and drums.

    The concert's repertoire could have presented a real challenge for the EPC singers as they moved outside their usual comfort zone of choral classics, but they met the challenge with lots of enthusiasm, accuracy, smiling faces … and swing!

    David Batty

  • Celebrating 175 years: Exeter Living interviews our Director of Music, Howard Ionascu
  •  Date Posted: Tue, 5 Apr 2022
    Celebrating 175 years: Exeter Living interviews our Director of Music, Howard Ionascu
  • Celebrating 175 Years of Performance with Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem
  •  Date Posted: Wed, 16 Mar 2022
    Celebrating 175 Years of Performance with Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem
    Here are extracts from David Batty’s review.  You can read the full text here

    It was two years almost to the day (14 March 2020, just before the first Covid lockdown) that I last had the pleasure of reviewing a concert in Exeter Cathedral by the Exeter Philharmonic Choir. Then it was a performance of Beethoven's mighty Missa Solemnis; this occasion, on Saturday 12 March 2022, was of the German Requiem by Brahms or, rather, Ein deutsches Requiem, as the choir sang the work in the original German. The choice of this major work within the choral repertoire served as a grand celebration of EPC's 175 uninterrupted years of performance since its foundation in 1846 – quite an achievement, and 20 years before Brahms composed the Requiem! It was pleasing, too, to see a well-filled Cathedral to mark the occasion.

    For conductor Howard Ionascu this work presented a real challenge. The choir sings in all seven movements, which represents a demanding stay of stamina throughout the 60+ minutes of the work. But Howard Ionascu and his EPC forces are to be admired for keeping the energy levels so high, with no less vigour in the great fugue of the sixth movement than that which ends the third. Some frailties in choral entries and ensemble notwithstanding, the performance gave the audience a real sense of the mix of anguish and consolation that is such a feature of the work. Diction of the German text was good.

    Two fine singers took on the solo roles. Jessica Cale's beautiful soprano voice, easily encompassing the high tessitura of her part, led the consolatory fifth movement in a reflective and moving manner. Singing in the third and sixth movements, baritone Timothy Nelson brought an impressive, lieder-like freshness to his performance, with an authoritative feeling for both text and music.

    Accompanying the EPC were the London Mozart Players, who provided warm, high quality support: how good, for instance, to have a rich foundation to the slow tread of 'Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras' (‘For all flesh is grass’) at the start of the second movement.

    Lo, The Full, Final Sacrifice
    Before the Requiem, the concert offered us a rare performance of Gerald Finzi's Lo, The Full, Final Sacrifice, originally written (in 1946) with organ accompaniment but here heard in an orchestral guise very much in the English pastoral tradition. This is a lovely work set to words by the 17th century Richard Crashaw drawn from writings by St Thomas. I enjoyed the choir's careful attention to the work's dynamics though, as with the Brahms, the balance between voices and orchestra was occasionally challenged in forte climaxes. The performance included short solo contributions from EPC members, tenor Stuart Mole and bass Martin Stubbings.

    Howard Ionascu and his performers are to be congratulated on such an enjoyable concert, which was the Exeter Philharmonic Choir's annual performance in aid of the Lord Mayor's Charity, on this occasion Inclusive Exeter.
  • Celebrating 175 years
  •  Date Posted: Sat, 26 Feb 2022
    Celebrating 175 years

    There is a flurry of activity on the publicity front in advance of our 175th anniversary performance of Brahms’ great work, Ein deutsches Requiem in Exeter Cathedral on 12 March.  The Western Morning News published an article Friday 26 February.  And Angela Kalwaites will feature the choir in her morning programme on BBC Radio Devon, focusing on our celebration of 175 years and our anniversary concert.

    Members of the choir are busy publicising the concert among friends, family and work colleagues.  And our social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is alive with posts.

    The choir were delighted at the size of audiences at their Autumn and Christmas concerts and were overwhelmed by the warmth of their reception.  We look forward to performing for you again with the renowned London Mozart Players and two of the UK’s most exciting soloists, soprano Jessica Cale, winner of the 2020 Kathleen Ferrier Award, and baritone Timothy Nelson.
  • 175 Anniversary Concert
  •  Date Posted: Tue, 1 Feb 2022
    175 Anniversary Concert
    Exeter Philharmonic Choir celebrates its 175th anniversary with a performance of Brahms’ great work, Ein deutsches Requiem. The programme includes Lo, The Full, Final Sacrifice by Gerald Finzi, a rare opportunity to hear this piece accompanied by full orchestra.

    Joining us are the renowned London Mozart Players and two of the UK’s most exciting soloists, soprano Jessica Cale, winner of the 2020 Kathleen Ferrier Award, and baritone Timothy Nelson.

    Despite wars and pandemics, the choir has performed concerts in Exeter every year since its foundation in 1846.  The pandemic has highlighted the importance of live music for both audiences and performers.  The choir were delighted at the size of audiences at their Autumn and Christmas concerts and were overwhelmed by the warmth of thir reception.

  • CAROLS IN THE CATHEDRAL 14 and 15 December 2021
  •  Date Posted: Fri, 17 Dec 2021
    CAROLS IN THE CATHEDRAL 14 and 15 December 2021

    It was wonderful to sing two nights of carols in Exeter Cathedral again and to experience such a warm and appreciative reception from our audiences.

    The varied and balanced programme that our Director of Music, Howard Ionascu, had designed proved very popular. We have had much positive feedback about the choice of pieces and the way we performed them. One of our regular followers said, “It was one of the best, despite the face masks.”

    Stephen Tanner, our Associate Director of Music, not only accompanied the choir on organ and piano but also directed our special guests, Isca Voices, who enchanted us all with their beautiful singing.

    2021 has been an extraordinary year and we are so pleased (and relieved!) to have been able to stage three wonderful concerts this autumn.

    Looking ahead, we fervently hope to start rehearsing Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem in January for our 175th anniversary concert with the London Mozart Players in Exeter Cathedral on Saturday 12 March 2022.
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 14 Nov 2021

    Our first concert after 20 months of enforced silence was certainly the joyous and emotional return to singing that Howard Ionascu, Exeter Philharmonic Choir ’s musical director, had planned. It was wonderful to be back on the stage in the nave of Exeter Cathedral, a place we have all missed so much during the long months of the pandemic.

    A large and enthusiastic audience gave the choir, soloists and orchestra a warm and appreciative reception. Many people said afterwards how much they had enjoyed the opportunity to hear live choral music once again.

    Howard chose the Fauré Requiem, a choral work much loved for its great beauty, as the focus for the choir’s return. Before that, the European theme of the first half of the concert, sung in French, Russian, German and Latin, showcased shorter pieces of music in a variety of styles.

    We were joined by two wonderful young professional soloists, Lucy Cronin and James Geidt, and accompanied by Devon Amici, an ensemble from across the South West, whose playing perfectly complemented the singing.

    Our attention now turns to preparations for our two regular evenings of Carols in the Cathedral, on Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 December. We look forward to an enjoyable programme of audience and choir carols, with local youth choir Isca Voices appearing as special guests.

  • Songs of the Soul along St Michael's Way
  •  Date Posted: Mon, 27 Sep 2021
    Songs of the Soul along St Michael's Way
    Songs of the Soul along St Michael’s Way

    Members of Exeter Philharmonic Choir and friends received a very warm welcome in Cornwall over the weekend of 24 to 26 September as they walked the ancient pilgrimage route of St Michael’s Way, singing as they journeyed. The singers, who had renamed themselves as the Pilgrims’ Chorus, gave three short concerts, at St Uny’s Church in Lelant, St Paul’s Church in Ludgvan and, at journey’s end, in the Castle Chapel at St Michael’s Mount.

    Stephen Tanner, EPC’s associate director of music, conducted an eclectic programme featuring Monteverdi, Palestrina, Bruckner and Haydn, alongside madrigals, folk songs and traditional spirituals arranged by the Soweto Gospel Choir.

    It was a privilege for the Pilgrims’ Chorus to perform the première of Stephen Tanner’s most recent composition, a setting of Ave Verum Corpus, as well as to sing a work by the choir’s former director of music, Andrew Millington, entitled Give me my Scallop Shell, an arrangement of words from Sir Walter Raleigh’s The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage.

    The walking was as wonderful as the singing, along varied paths, through contrasting landscapes. Mist obscured the panoramic view from the highest point, the Iron Age hill fort on Trencrom Hill. But, as the walkers descended, St Michael’s Mount came into view, as well as the tower of St Paul’s Church, Ludgvan. And on the final day the sun shone, lighting the walkers’ path along the causeway and up to the Castle Chapel, where the Pilgrims’ Chorus gave its final performance, ending with Parry’s moving settting of Tennyson’s Crossing the Bar.

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