EMI record producer Walter Legge founded the Philharmonia Orchestra after World War II to serve as his own recording orchestra. In, when planning a recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony under the direction of Otto Klemperer, Legge in 1957 founded the Philharmonia Chorus to sing in those sessions and in the public concert associated with it.
The 250-voice amateur chorus, chosen and rehearsed meticulously, immediately set a new high standard for large British choral groups, and continued in existence to provide choral singing for Legge projects.
In 1964 Legge "suspended" the Philharmonia. He intended this to be the end of both the orchestra and the chorus, but both organizations, separately, met to reconstitute themselves as self-governing organizations. Initially, Legge refused to let these new organizations carry on under the name they had made famous. Like the orchestra, the chorus went by the name The New Philharmonia. It reverted to use of the name The Philharmonia Chorus in 1977.
The members of the chorus elect a council, all of whose members must be active singers in the chorus. The council members are generally chosen for their professional expertise in such fields as law and administration, travel, public relations, and marketing. This keeps administrative costs low. The chorus holds itself available for concert organizations and promoters who wish to engage it.
Despite its close ties with the Philharmonia, the chorus and the orchestra are in fact separate bodies, allowing the chorus to perform with other organizations. It has sung with the London Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra. It has frequently taken tours, and has sung on numerous recordings. During this time, it has retained its position as one of the finest large amateur choirs in the world.