The choir has an unbroken history since 1846, when the Exeter Oratorio Society was set up, making it one of the oldest musical organisations in the country. The first concert (Handel’s Messiah) was in 1847 and the choir, under one name or another, has performed concerts in Exeter in every year since then. Its 60th anniversary was celebrated in 1906 with the publication of a History of the Choir, which was found in the Westcountry Studies Library.

In 1930, the Exeter Oratorio Society merged with the Cathedral Augmented Choir to form the Exeter Musical Society. The choir’s centenary was celebrated with a performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius in 1946. In 1965 the choir gave the first of its carol concerts in Exeter Cathedral, which has since become an annual tradition. Until 1988 the society consisted of singers and orchestral players; the orchestral players then renamed themselves Exeter Symphony Orchestra.In 1995, its 150th anniversary season, the choir changed its name to Exeter Philharmonic Choir.

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Although we have quite extensive records of the organisation and performances of the choir since WW2, unfortunately most of the older records were destroyed when the house of the society’s secretary was bombed in 1942, so our information about its early history is limited.


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