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 withSir Charles Groves and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and concerts andrecitals in Edinburgh and Dublin
In the late 1980s 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 1991-92 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 Brian’s tenure, Renaissance worked closely with the Ulster Orchestra and the Studio Symphony Orchestra, musical highlightsbeing performances of Bach's "St. Matthew Passion", "L'enfance du Christ" by Berlioz, Beethoven's "Mass in C major", Bach's"Magnificat" and "Fantasia on Christmas Carols" by Vaughan Williams.
In June 2006, Renaissance celebrated its 30th anniversary with a concert in St Molua’s Church of Ireland, Dundonald. This occasion also marked the retirement of Brian Hunter as director. Brian was succeeded by the choir’s current conductor, Ian Mills, who is also the organist and choir master of St Columb’s 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 Peter’s 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 Anne’s 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 Columb’s Cathedral.
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.
Ian Mills graduated with first-class honours from Queen's University Belfast, studying organ and harpsichord with Charles Harrison and Professor Jan Smaczny. After completing a Master of Arts degree in Music in 2006, Ian was appointed Organist and Master of the Choristers at St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry—the UK’s youngest Cathedral organist. The following year, he was appointed director of the renowned Belfast-based chamber choir Renaissance; he was appointed conductor of one of Northern Ireland's largest choral societies, The Altnagelvin Hospital Choir, in 2010. Under his direction, the choir of Derry Cathedral have participated in N.I. Opera’ s award-winning production of Tosca, and a recorded a CD of music inspired by the poetry of Cecil Frances Alexander. This was produced by Dr Martin Neary (ex. Westminster Abbey) who has worked closely with the Cathedral Choir is his capacity as Artist in Residence. Ian has also established one of Ireland's most active organ recital series in Derry Cathedral, attracting a number of internationally-acclaimed artists including David Briggs and Naji Hakim.
As a choral director, Ian has conducted choirs throughout the UK including, most recently, a residency in Canterbury Cathedral. He has broadcast on BBC Radio 2, Radio 4 and BBC network television.