About The Choir

Choir Group

Exeter Philharmonic Choir                               

Honorary Patron  Countess Cecilia Rodrigo
Honorary President  The Lord Mayor of Exeter

Exeter Philharmonic Choir, which has around 115 members, has a long tradition of singing a wide range of choral music, old and new. The choir gives three major concerts a year and performs evenings of Christmas Carols in Exeter Cathedral. Its new conductor, Howard Ionascu, is also Director of the Junior Academy at the Royal Academy of Music. The choir is looking forward to new and exciting challenges.

Exeter Philharmonic Choir always performs with professional orchestras and soloists to maintain its quality of music.

The origins of the choir stretch back to 1846; it gave its first concert in 1847, a performance of Handel’s Messiah, since when it has provided concerts in Exeter every year, without interruption.

Choir tours

Highlights for the choir have included tours to Spain and Germany, the recording of two CDs and a concert of Joaquín Rodrigo’s music in the Royal Festival Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In Exeter the choir has sung the works of composers as diverse as John Adams, Bach, Beethoven, Bernstein, Brahms, Britten, Dvořák, Elgar, Puccini, Rodrigo, Schubert, Vaughan Williams and Walton.

Musical highlights

 The choir’s repertoire has always been diverse. Among the highlights of recent years was a recording in 2012 of The Lazarus Requiem by contemporary composer Patrick Hawes with the Scottish National Orchestra and Exeter Cathedral Choir. The 2013/14 season included Brahms’ German Requiem, Bach’s Mass in B minor and Will Todd’s Mass in Blue, with the composer at the piano.

In November 2014 the Devon County Junior Choir joined us for Chris Williams’ moving Tsunami Requiem on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, and again in May 2016 we were delighted to welcome DCJC back for performances of Horovitz’ Captain Noah and His Floating Ark and Andrew Carter’s Benedicite.

A highlight of our 2015-16 season was the March 2016 concert, which had a nautical theme. It featured Vaughan Williams’ masterpiece, A Sea Symphony, together with the first performance of Andrew Millington’s The Seafarer, a moving work based on an Anglo-Saxon poem from the 10th-century Exeter Book.

The 2017-18 season, the choir’s 170th anniversary featured the performance of three masterpieces, Handel’s Messiah, Verdi’s Requiem and Elgar The Dream of Gerontius. Andrew Millington chose The Dream of Gerontius for his last performance with Exeter Philharmonic Choir before his retirement.

Supporter of Charities

For 25 years Exeter Philharmonic Choir has had a proud record of raising funds for local and national charities at its carol concerts in Exeter Cathedral.

Our Christmas 2013 concerts raised more than £2,600 for Médecins Sans Frontières and in December 2014 the same amount was collected for ShelterBox. The 2015 carol concerts raised £1,875 for ELF, the Exeter Leukaemia Fund.

In March 2014 and June 2015 the choir also combined with the Exeter Symphony Orchestra to perform highly successful concerts in Exeter Cathedral in support of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.

During the 2016/17 season the choir raised money for the then Lord Mayor’s Charity, Devon Freewheelers, with its performance of Handel’s Messiah in October 2016, while at the carol concerts in December it supported Exeter Community Initiatives.

In the 2017/18 season the choir will support Farms for City Children at the carol concerts and Age UK Exeter at the Lord Mayor’s concert in March.

We are very grateful to our audiences for their generous support of these wonderful causes.

Musical Support

The choir’s Associate Director of Music is Stephen Tanner, who also accompanies the choir at rehearsals.

Howard Director of Music

Howard Ionascu

Howard studied music at Manchester University before being appointed Vicar Choral in Wells Cathedral Choir. Whilst at Wells, he sang on many recordings, broadcasts and international tours. In 1997 he founded The Laudate Choir, a choir of young singers, which continues to perform regularly in London as well as further afield. With the Laudate Choir, he has recorded various CDs for Meridian and Priory Records and performed with The City of London Sinfonia, English Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia Britannica and Onyx Brass. Howard has also been Musical Director of Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir, Finchley Children’s Music Trebles Choir, The Esterhazy Singers in London and worked with Guildford Choral Society, City of London Choir, as well as on Eton Choral Courses as a Guest Conductor.

Prior to his post as Director of Junior Academy, Howard taught at Radley College, Royal Grammar School, Guildford and most recently as Director of Music at The King¹s School, Canterbury. In 2007, Howard undertook a six month Conducting Fellowship in Australia, leading workshops and masterclasses across New South Wales. Howard has been appointed Musical Director of Exeter Philharmonic Choir from September 2017.


Associate Director of Music

Stephen Tanner

Stephen Tanner is a freelance music educator, choral director, organist, composer, arranger and examiner based in Exeter. Having been a chorister at Coventry Cathedral, he gained a degree in music at the University of Huddersfield.

For many years he was Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral School and Assistant Organist and Director of the Girl Choristers at Exeter Cathedral. His school music department enjoyed a reputation for the quality of its music-making with many former pupils going on to enjoy national and international musical success. He founded the Girl Choristers’ section of Exeter Cathedral Choir in 1994 and directed it for 22 years, undertaking numerous broadcasts, recordings and foreign tours. He was musical director of Exeter Cathedral’s Chorister Outreach Project, promoting singing in Devon’s primary schools, and is a former Director of the Exeter Choral Society.

Stephen directs Isca Voices, a group of former girl choristers from Exeter Cathedral Choir who perform a wide range of sacred and secular music. In July 2017, Isca Voices included adult singers and former boy choristers for the first time on a tour to Paris, performing in venues including Notre Dame and La Madeleine.

Stephen has composed and arranged extensively, has won two national composition competitions and is currently engaged in writing music for a film. He is an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, serving on both the main and jazz panels. He became accompanist to Exeter Philharmonic Choir in 2016 and in 2017 took on the additional role of its Associate Director of Music.



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