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

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:

RSCM Safeguarding Policy Aug 2017

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.

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.

Addington Palace

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.

Cleveland Lodge

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 future

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

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.