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

Centrally, through:

  • 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:

  • festivals
  • 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

RSCM Trustees’ Annual Report 2017

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.

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.

Further reading

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.