What is the RSCM?
The Royal School of Church Music is the heart and home of church music.
We are an educational charity committed to promoting the study, practice and improvement of music in Christian worship.
We are an open, life-long learning organisation, offering face-to-face and distance education and training through our programmes, published resources, courses and activities.
The RSCM supports a world-wide membership of churches, schools and individuals, and is sustained by thousands of donors and volunteers worldwide.
Founded by Sir Sydney Nicholson in 1927, the RSCM’s original emphases were English and choral. Now, in a diverse international context, the RSCM’s work is far broader and more diverse, and we aim to make all our work ecumenical in purpose, nature and content.
What does the RSCM do?
We celebrate church music and help to shape its future through:
- practical and applied programmes of education and training
- music-making at festivals and courses
- music and training resources
- information, advice and guidance
We serve the wider church by:
- encouraging music-making in general, and singing in particular
- providing training in essential skills for church music
- developing understanding of music in the church’s ministry and worship
- encouraging good music everywhere through fostering outreach from the churches into the community
- engaging with young people in singing
RSCM Around The World
The RSCM is proud to be an international organisation, supporting the best in church music and the church’s ministry right across the globe.
We have five International Partners, who are constitutionally separate from UK, and therefore have separate membership arrangements – please see the links below for more details. We do, however, work in close co-operation, and all the Partners share in the same missional goals as RSCM UK. We also have a European presence, administered from our UK offices in Salisbury. The RSCM has recently concluded agreements with each of the five key RSCM partner organisations around the world. Details of the successful negotiations can be found here.
To find out how joining the RSCM can support you with practical advice, resources and tips on how to choose music and materials for worship click here.
Ireland, North-West Europe and France
Membership for these areas is administered centrally in the UK.
For information on local events and educational courses for these areas please visit the below links:
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and USA
If you live in any of the above countries, you can join the RSCM through your national office. The below links will take you directly to the website of these branches where you will be able to apply for membership and view educational courses and events:
How is the RSCM governed?
The Royal School of Church Music is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England, no 00250031. It is also a registered charity, no 312828.
The charity is overseen by a Council of trustees. Decisions are taken by Council or by staff on such delegated terms as Council approves. Generally, strategic decisions are taken by Council, and the day-to-day management of the charity is delegated by Council to the Director and two Deputy Directors.
The Right Revd Nicholas Holtam
The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam became Bishop of Salisbury in 2011. He is delighted that the RSCM is based in the cathedral Close. From his early days as a chorister, Bishop Nicholas has maintained a keen interest in the use of music in worship.
Brian was a Choral Scholar at King’s College Cambridge under David Willcocks and co-founded the international vocal ensemble The King’s Singers in 1968, performing over 2000 concerts with them worldwide. He then spent twenty five years writing and presenting thousands of music programmes for BBC Radios 2, 3 and 4 and now enjoys a third career as an international choral and orchestral conductor.
The Right Revd David Stancliffe
David was Bishop of Salisbury from 1993 to 2010, and chaired the Liturgical Commission as it produced Common Worship. As a teenager in London, he depped in choirs and learnt the rudiments of organ building from Noel Mander. He has been performing Bach cantatas since 1964 and is within sight of having done them all on period instruments. He shares his passion for early music with young singers at university in Durham, where he now lives and works.
The Very Rev'd Dr John Hall
The Very Reverend Dr John Hall was Dean of Westminster from 2006 until 2019. He taught in Hull and was then ordained in 1975 to serve in parishes in Southwark diocese before becoming director of education for the Diocese of Blackburn and a Residentiary Canon, and thereafter the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer. He became Chair of RSCM Council in 2018.
Rev’d Angie Paterson
Angie Paterson is an Associate Priest in the Diocese of Oxford where she has spent many years in ministry in rural parishes. In parallel she has been a business consultant specialising in personal and organisational development with experience in public, private and charitable organisations. More recently she has engaged with faith and politics. She has a long association with the RSCM, singing and playing in churches for many years and working on the early development of Church Music Skills.
Andrew has had a lifelong involvement in church music from singing at the age of 8 to playing the organ at churches in Somerset, Farnborough and Southampton. He has held several Director of Music roles in Bristol, most recently at Frenchay Parish church where he established a thriving junior and senior chorister programme. Andrew’s professional life is as a Senior Civil Servant, and he is qualified as a Chartered Project Professional and Chartered Engineer.
Dr Chris Bridges trained as a chemist and has worked in commerce for the last thirty years. Latterly he has worked as the marketing director for a distributor of laboratory products, leading its digital transformation from a provider of paper catalogues to a web-based business. Chris conducted the British Methodist Youth Choir and is Director of Music at Beeston Methodist Church in Nottingham.
Edward Wild is the Managing Director of Wild Search and advises boards and businesses on senior appointments, with a particular expertise in education, charities and the rural economy. An experienced charity trustee, he has also edited or written a number of publications on education and governance, including the history of Hampton School (2006). During his early career he was a teacher and fundraising and development director.
Jane has had rich experience as a singer in the church, having been involved with church music since she was a university undergraduate. She has had choral associations with Coventry, Wells, Newport and Brecon Cathedrals, as well as Bath Abbey and has accompanied church choir tours all over the world. She brings to Council professional skills and experience in management and governance having been in senior roles in the public and charity sectors as well as the church.
Mary Evans is a solicitor with 34 years’ post qualification experience. She ran her own company for 23 years and now works as a consultant solicitor. Mary is a past president of the West Wales Law Society and currently chair of the Carmarthen Borough Law Society. She has been a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) since 1996. She is also Secretary of the RSCM West Wales Area.
A qualified accountant with a background in the public sector, Peter Connor has worked in a number of different areas of central government and has experience of governance matters particularly in the not-for-profit sector. Before and after retiring he worked with a number of charities, both large and small, and has a good knowledge of charity finance, reporting, financial planning and control.
Brigid Parkin MBA
In her working life, relinquished two years ago, Brigid Parkin has used her data capture and analysis skills to help define and solve business problems across a number of industry sectors. As a business analyst she has been involved in business process re-engineering, systems development and migration, balanced by experience in market research, marketing services and business development. She is Treasurer for RSCM Winchester Area.
Phil Taylor has a lifelong affiliation with church music, having started singing at the age of nine, but only later realizing the influence the RSCM had on his singing. He brings to Council professional skills in Information Technology from his ‘day job’ as director of an IT support company and previous experience chairing a national charity. He has served on the RSCM Liverpool Area committee in various roles for 10 years.
Robin Thomas is Managing Director of Morgen Thomas Ltd, one of the UK’s leading specialist fundraising consultancies. He has previous extensive experience in arts management, directing arts programmes for major international cultural events. He has worked as a professional choral conductor, serving on the Boards of the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors and British Columbia Choral Federation. He has also served as a lay clerk at Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver.
Rev'd Anna Macham
Anna Macham has recently been appointed as Precentor at Salisbury Cathedral following a number of years as parish priest of St Philip’s, Camberwell. Before that, she was Succentor of Southwark Cathedral and a chaplain at King’s College London. She currently chairs the Bishop’s Advisory Group for Liturgy, and brings her liturgical experience and pastoral skills to the Council. As a singer, she has benefitted from involvement with the RSCM since teenage years, and is keen to promote musical and liturgical engagement in the parish and beyond, especially amongst young people.
Before taking up his post as RSCM Director in August 2018, Hugh held a number of prestigious positions, most recently as Director of Music at Derby Cathedral, where he successfully led the flourishing music department since 2015.
With a wealth of expertise under his belt, Hugh studied music at Cambridge University and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. Hugh has also worked in a number of different Cathedrals, churches and schools across the UK including Hexham Abbey, Salisbury Cathedral and Christchurch Priory.
Hugh is an accomplished choir trainer and organist and enjoys performing a wide variety of music.
History of the RSCM
Sir Sydney Nicholson and the School of English Church Music
On the initiative of Sir Sydney Nicholson, then organist of Westminster Abbey, the School of English Church Music (SECM) was inaugurated at a meeting in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey held on 6 December 1927, the feast of St Nicolas. It was to consist of a training college for church musicians (the College of St Nicolas), and an association of affiliated churches who committed themselves to attaining high standards.
The School was housed at Buller’s Wood in Chislehurst, Kent. The college opened there in 1929 and continued until closure was forced at the outbreak of war in 1939 when most students were called up for military service. During those first ten years, major choral festivals were held triennially in London (1930 at the Royal Albert Hall, 1933 and 1936 at the Crystal Palace) and the number of affiliated churches rose to 1300 worldwide. Throughout the war Sir Sydney continued his itinerant teaching at diocesan and parish level from a base at St Michael’s College, Tenbury, and then from Leamington Spa.
The Royal School of Church Music
In 1945, by command of King George VI, the SECM became the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM). Canterbury Cathedral allowed the school to function within the precincts of the cathedral, and the College of St Nicolas re-opened there in January 1946. By 1952 over 3000 churches were affiliated.
In 1954 the RSCM and the College of St Nicolas moved to Addington Palace near Croydon, the former ‘country residence’ of the Archbishops of Canterbury, with Gerald Knight as Director and the Revd Cyril Taylor as Warden responsible for the RSCM’s educational work.
In 1973 Gerald Knight was succeeded as Director by Lionel Dakers, and he in turn by Harry Bramma in 1989. The College of St Nicolas was closed in 1974, and the RSCM then concentrated on short courses, and on work in the regions with new structures of voluntary committees. The membership increased, with a peak of almost 10,000 affiliates in 1980.
In 1996 the RSCM moved its administrative centre to Cleveland Lodge, near Dorking in Surrey, the former home of the organist Lady Susi Jeans. A major programme of refurbishment and new building was completed in 2000. Professor John Harper was appointed as Director in 1998.
The RSCM moved its administrative centre to Salisbury in Summer 2006. Its office is located within Sarum College, a Christian ecumenical college in Salisbury’s cathedral close. RSCM Music Direct was relocated to Norwich, where Norwich Books and Music now operate our sales functions. The organ presented to the College of St Nicolas in 1931, is now loaned to St Alkmund’s Church in Shrewsbury, which is also using the RSCM vestments and woven kneelers. The organ made by Peter Collins is now in the chapel of Salisbury Cathedral School. The organ from Susi Jeans’s music room at Cleveland Lodge is now located in the Recital Hall at Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University.
Professor Harper retired as Director of the RSCM at the end of December 2007, and was appointed ‘Emeritus Director’. He continues as RSCM Research Professor at Bangor University and as a Visiting Scholar at Sarum College. Lindsay Gray was Director of the RSCM from May 2008 until September 2012, Andrew Reid was Director from October 2012 until October 2017. Hugh Morris took up the role of Director with the RSCM in August 2018.
The RSCM is seeking to enlarge its ecumenical mission, to serve the needs of its affiliated members and the wider Church, to develop first-class resources, and to continue to train and educate musicians and clergy to make best use of music in worship.
The RSCM has the power to confer diplomas and awards. Some are honorary; others are awarded as a result of academic study or other training. Details of criteria, nominations and presentation of the honorary awards can be found on this page.
The RSCM Council has agreed the following broad criteria as a normative guide when making nominations for awards. Council will continue to exercise its discretion in making awards.
FRSCM – Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music
is an award for achievements in church music and/or liturgy of international significance, or for exceptional musical and/or liturgical work within the RSCM. Normally up to five awards each year.
ARSCM – Associate of the Royal School of Church Music
is an award for achievements in church music and/or liturgy of national significance, or for important musical and/or liturgical work within the RSCM. Normally up to five awards each year.
HonRSCM – Honorary member of the RSCM
is an award for exceptional or very significant work that has contributed to the cause of church music and/or liturgy at international or national levels, or within the RSCM, but which is not primarily musical or liturgical. Normally up to three awards each year.
Certificate of Special Service
is an award for significant administrative work as a voluntary officer or member of staff within the RSCM; or an award for a significant contribution to church music and/or liturgy at a local level. Normally up to ten awards each year.
Nominations may be submitted by:
Members of RSCM Council
Senior RSCM Staff, Regional Co-ordinators, Volunteer Team Leaders
Chair or Secretary of RSCM Area Committee
RSCM Region One Regional Panel Members
President or Secretary of an RSCM National Governing Body
Chair or Secretary of RSCM Overseas Branch
Nominations submitted by any other person must be seconded by one of the above.
Nominations will be considered by a scrutiny group for presentation to RSCM Council for approval. There is no certainty that the RSCM will be able to act on every nomination, and all nominations should therefore be treated with total confidentiality.
Nominations must be received by 1 September each year. All nominations will be acknowledged. If acknowledgement has not been received by the end of the first working day after 1 September, please contact the RSCM Centre to check whether the nomination has been safely received.
Presentation of Awards
FRSCM, ARSCM, HonRSCM and Certificates of Special Service will normally be awarded at a national RSCM celebration in the UK.
Some RSCM Areas may, if desired, award Certificates of Special Service at an Area or overseas national or overseas branch festival, or at a comparable occasion.
Dr John Henderson and Trevor Jarvis, the current Honorary Librarian and Honorary Assistant Librarian of the RSCM, have published a history of the College of St Nicolas during its years at Chislehurst, along with materials from the RSCM archives and a review of the life and achievements of Sir Sydney Nicholson. It is available from RSCM Music Direct here.
The same authors have also published Sir Sydney’s autobiography ‘Musings of a Musician’, accompanied by a wealth of hitherto unpublished photographs and some of Nicholson’s own watercolour paintings. Also available from RSCM Music Direct here.
Watkins Shaw’s fascinating and informative booklet Vocation and Endeavour about Sir Sydney Nicholson and the early years of the Royal School of Church Music is available from RSCM Music Direct here.