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
How does the RSCM deliver its work?
Internationally, through our core programmes:
- Voice for Life, a comprehensive training programme for choral singers of all ages and abilities
- Church Music Skills, a range of practical training schemes and awards in essential skills
- our member magazine, Church Music Quarterly
- our quarterly guide to choosing music for worship, Sunday by Sunday
- the RSCM Press, publishing music and training resources
- our website
- our national youth choir – the RSCM Millennium Youth Choir
- our training choirs – RSCM Voices and Cathedral Singers
- our courses for singers, organists, instrumentalists and worship leaders
Regionally, through the work of our volunteers, who organize events and training including:
- local courses, summer schools, workshops and training days
- singing award schemes
In partnership with others:
- consulting with the churches nationally and locally
- collaborating with other church, music, and educational organizations
Please click below to view the latest Trustees’ Annual Report
Working with children and young people
The RSCM is committed to the safeguarding, care and nurture of everyone involved in our courses and events.
Our current safeguarding policy can be downloaded below:
We are in the process of updating our Safeguarding Guidance for those working with children and young people and this will be circulated in due course.
The RSCM Safeguarding Officer is the first point of contact for any safeguarding matter. For urgent safeguarding matters, please call 07908 469587.
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 David Stancliffe
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 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.
The Very Rev'd Dr John Hall
The Very Reverend Dr John Hall has been Dean of Westminster since 2006. 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 Council in 2018.
Ian Church brings to Council extensive business experience. For more than 20 years he was Joint MD of a hi-tech British engineering company. He then helped to set up Central Surrey Health, the first large-scale social enterprise to contract with the NHS, and served as its first Chair for eight years. Ian is Director of Music at St John’s, West Byfleet, and an organ tutor in Surrey.
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.
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.
Rowan Morton Gledhill has a lifelong association with church and cathedral music, both Anglican and Catholic. She is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Leeds, and Press Secretary to the Bishop of Leeds. A BBC TV producer/director and broadcast journalist for 23 years, she specialised in music programmes including 15 years producing Songs of Praise. She still freelances for religious programmes on BBC Radio 3 and 4.
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.
Dr David Price
Dr David Price is Organist & Master of the Choristers at Portsmouth Cathedral. Previously he was Assistant Organist of Ely Cathedral having held Organ Scholarships at Rochester Cathedral and Croydon Minster. Portsmouth University has conferred on him an Honorary Doctorate of Music in recognition of his contribution to music at the cathedral and to the cultural life of the city. David serves on the RSCM Portsmouth Area and the RSCM Isle of Wight Area committees.
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 been parish priest of St Philip’s, Camberwell for 5 years. 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.
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
Chair or Secretary of RSCM Area Committee
President/Chair 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.