About The Choir

Exeter Philharmonic Choir                               

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

Exeter Philharmonic Choir, which has around 110 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.

Choir GroupExeter Philharmonic Choir always performs with professional orchestras and soloists to maintain the quality of its music-making.

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.


Further afield
Though based in Devon, the choir has on numerous occasions performed outside Exeter, including Spain where the choir sang in Madrid and Salamanca, and Germany with concerts in Fulda, Heidelberg and Würzburg and in London where it gave a concert of Joaquín Rodrigo’s music in the Royal Festival Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.


 Musical highlights
The choir has always performed a wide musical repertoire, singing works by composers as diverse as John Adams, Bach, Beethoven, Bernstein, Brahms, Britten, Dvořák, Elgar, Puccini, Rodrigo, Schubert, Vaughan Williams and Walton.

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, while for its spring concert in March 2016 the choir chose a nautical theme, featuring 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 tenth-century Exeter Book.

The 2016-17 season marked the choir’s 170th anniversary year; it featured the performance of three masterpieces, Handel’s Messiah, Verdi’s Requiem and 

Elgar The Dream of Gerontius, which Andrew Millington chose as the work for his last performance with Exeter Philharmonic Choir before his retirement.

The 2017-18 season saw the choir with their new Director of Music, Howard Ionascu, performing Baroque music, Mozart’s Requiem and, accompanied by the new Ruffati organ in Buckfast Abbey, a variety of French and English music.

The 2018-19 season began in November with a performance of Bruckner Mass in E minor and John Rutter Requiem in Exeter Cathedral. Two carol concerts in the Cathedral followed in December and in March 2019 the choir returned to the Cathedral for a performance of Haydn Creation, accompanied by the London Mozart Players. The season concluded with Brahms Liebeslieder-Walzer and Rossini Petite Messe solennelle at the Exeter Northcott Theatre.


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.

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 supported Farms for City Children at the carol concerts and Age UK Exeter at the Lord Mayor’s concert in March. In July choir members sang in a concert in aid of ABF, the soldiers’ charity.

After the carol concerts in December 2018 the choir was able to present St Petrock’s Exeter with a cheque for £ 4056.23. At the Lord Mayor’s concert in March the choir will support SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. 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 Ionascu, Musical Director of Exeter Philharmonic Choir, studied Music at the University of Manchester before being appointed Vicar Choral in Wells Cathedral Choir. While 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 and The Esterhazy Singers in London and worked with Guildford Choral Society and City of London Choir, as well as on Eton Choral Courses as a Guest Conductor.

In 2007 he undertook a six-month Conducting Fellowship in Australia, leading workshops and masterclasses across New South Wales.

Howard took up the post of Director of Chapel Music and Quiristers at Winchester College in December 2018, following five years as Director of the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music. He previously taught at Radley College and the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, and was Director of Music at The King’s School, Canterbury.



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 breadth and 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 2017 and 2018 Isca Voices included adult singers and former boy choristers in tours to Paris and Rome, performing in venues including La Cathédrale de Notre Dame and St Peter’s Basilica.

In addition to his role as accompanist and Associate Director of Music to the Exeter Philharmonic Choir, he is one-half of the organ duo Organ2, joint Musical Director of the Heritage Singers and Organist and Director of Music at St Peter’s Church, Budleigh Salterton.

Stephen has composed and arranged extensively and has won two national composition competitions. He is an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, serving on both the main and jazz panels.




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