Renaissance is a Belfast-based Chamber Choir, formed in 1976 by the late Ronnie Lee. The choir spent its early years building up a notable local reputation and in 1984, it entered and won the inaugural BBC Sainsbury's Choir of the Year competition. This resulted in a concert in London's Barbican with Sir Charles Groves and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and concerts and recitals in Edinburgh and Dublin.
In the late 1980's and early 1990s, Renaissance was involved in a number of concerts and recordings with the Ulster Orchestra, working closely with the then principal conductor, Yan Pascal Tortelier. Competition sucess was achieved in 1991 at the Sligo International Choral Festival, with two major prizes. In recognition of its performances in the 1991-1992 season, the choir won the Belfast Telegraph EMA award for classical ensemble.
Following the untimely death of Ronnie Lee in 1992, the choir appointed a new director, Brian Hunter, in early 1994. Under his baton, the choir enjoyed continued success in taking the top awards at the Sligo International Choral Festivals of 1995 and 1999 and at the 1996 Bangor Choral Festival. During Hunter's tenure, Renaissance worked closely with the Ulster Orchestra and the Studio Symphony Orchestra, musical highlightsbeing performances of J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), L'enfance du Christ by Berlioz, L.v. Beethoven's Mass in C major, J.S. Bach's Magnificat (BWV 243) and Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
In 2004 Renaissance participated in Orchestra of St Cecilia: Bach Cantata Series in Dublin, where they performed several cantatas under the baton of Kevin Mallon. In June 2006, Renaissance celebrated its 30th anniversary with a concert in St Moluaís Church of Ireland, Dundonald. This occasion also marked the retirement of Brian Hunter as director. Hunter was succeeded by the choirís current conductor, Ian Mills, who is also the organist and choir master of St Columbís Cathedral, Derry. Ian has continued to develop the choir's repertoire and taken it to new venues in the North West of the province and to St Peterís Cathedral, Belfast.
Two highlights in 2012 have been the participation by members of the Choir in the premiere performance of Philip Hammond's Titanic Requiem in St Anneís Cathedral, Belfast in April, and a week long residency in Canterbury Cathedral in August, singing evensong in the majestic surroundings of the Cathedral on a daily basis, along with friends from the Chamber Choir of St Columbís Cathedral.
Renaissance is one of Ireland's foremost Chamber Choirs. The number of members as of 2009 was 28. They have built an enviable reputation for broadcasting and recording. Although having its roots in church music, Renaissance has a wide secular repertoire and continues to expand its lighter repertoire with performances of modern jazz standards and classic pop songs.
Renaissance has featured in many Ulster Orchestra, Ulster Brass Ensemble and Studio Symphony peformances over the years, frequently appearing on TV and radio. They showed their flexibility by performing with the Chieftains in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, by 'backing' Marianne Faithful in an appearance at the Belfast Festival and shared a platform with Van Morrison at the City Hall during President Bill Clinton's first visit to Belfast. Renaissance sang with the Wiener Sängerknaben at Armagh Cathedral, and gave in Ireland's first ever performance of John Rutter's Gloria at the opening of the BBC's Blackstaff Studios in central Belfast.