In a brand new initiative for the English ‘Lockdown 2’ period and beyond, we are delighted to bring you a series of free, fascinating weekly live Friday lunchtime lectures.

Focused on a variety of aspects of sacred music, these hour-long sessions are delivered by experts in their respective fields and include short interactive Q&A sessions to enable direct audience engagement.

The lectures are hosted on our YouTube channel.

All previous lectures are still available to view.

“fascinating”  “interesting and accessible”  “wonderful music and fascinating talk”

“such a very great pleasure to learn about something that is completely new to me”


Lunchtime Lectures - Series 2


Lecture Title Description Date and time Lecturer Link
O Sing Unto The Lord: some of the stories and people behind English church music  Church music in England didn’t always just happen in church. From Christmas Carols in the field and pub to psalm-singing around the fireside, its many aspects have charted the development of our national character and politics as much as our church history. It has produced some of our greatest art, as well as music of moving simplicity and directness. And it has involved some colourful and rewarding characters. This lecture touches on just a few of the many sides of this rich story, including perhaps a few surprises. 

“beautiful music and fascinating lecture”

Friday 15 January – 1pm GMT Andrew Gant Click here to watch the lecture
Giving New Voice to a Forgotten Past  Paris, at the end of the twelfth century, was both vibrant and expanding, with the new cathedral of Notre Dame nearing the first stage of its completion. Increasing numbers of scholars and students arriving to study at the prestigious university resulted in Paris becoming the intellectual centre of Western Europe. Parisian musicians were beginning to elaborate plainchant in completely new ways, creating far more complex polyphony. This lecture will introduce examples specifically recorded, with performances of collective Marginalia, discussing how musicians went about creating this music. 

“a chance to hear an enthusiast talking about a topic most of us can’t access every day – some really interesting insights”

Friday 22 January – 1pm GMT Chloë Allison Click here to watch the lecture
The Chapels Royal of Charles I and Henrietta Maria The subject of this lecture is the Chapel Royal between 1625 and 1643 – or rather the two Chapels Royal: the long-established household chapel of the king, and the new household chapel of his Roman Catholic consort. Charles I was cultured and musical, and he inherited a musical establishment at one of its high points. His queen, Henrietta Maria, sister of Louis XIII was brought up in the French royal court. This is the story of two distinct institutions, their respective traditions of worship and music, and their eventual disruption during the Civil War.

“riveting and enlightening!”

“fascinating to be transported back into what must have been an era of great opportunity for church musicians of both Protestant and Catholic persuasion” 

Friday 29 January – 1pm GMT John Harper Click here to watch the lecture
Sir Richard Terry and new music at Westminster Cathedral 1912-1922 In the early years of the 20th century, Richard Terry, Master of the Music at Westminster Cathedral, forged a music policy that was to have a powerful influence beyond the realms of Catholic church music. The repertoire focussed on plainchant, previously neglected renaissance polyphony and contemporary music. He encouraged new music for the Roman rite, inspired by polyphonic ideals. This lecture examines how composers – including Wood, Howells, Holst, and culminating in Vaughan Williams – were inspired by the treasury of medieval and renaissance music as used by the Westminster Cathedral Choir in its liturgy. 

“fascinating” “immensely informative” “really illuminating”

Friday 5 February – 1pm GMT Patrick Russill Click here to watch the lecture
Three cheers for the BBC’s longest running Outside Broadcast! – A history of Choral Evensong on the Radio Three cheers for the BBC’s longest running Outside Broadcast!’  - a history of Choral Evensong with examples from the archives of significant broadcasts and the stories behind them…

“a very interesting talk which has kept up the high standards of Choral Evensong and the RSCM” 

Friday 12 February – 1pm GMT Stephen Shipley Click here to watch the lecture
Women composers and music for the Church of England: an historical overview This talk will aim to reveal the role of women musicians within the Church of England from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, focusing on the contribution made by composers. It will consider issues such as the nature of the surviving source material, the circumstances in which women composers have written for the church, and the changing attitudes to their work. Amongst the pre-1900 composers considered will be Polly Young, Mary Hudson, Theophania Cecil, Alice Smith, Clara Macirone and Oliveria Prescott.

“what a marvellous lecture – I thoroughly enjoyed it”

Friday 19 February – 1pm GMT Geoffrey Webber Click here to watch the lecture

Lunchtime Lectures - Series 1


Lecture Title Description Date and time Lecturer Link
What do Tudor music books tell us about Tudor musicians? In this lecture, Professor Magnus Williamson will investigate the manuscripts used by our musical ancestors, disclose some of their secrets, and consider their relevance today. Many of these manuscripts are now online, courtesy of the AHRC-funded Tudor Partbooks project. You can view them here. Friday 13 November- 1pm GMT Professor Magnus Williamson Click here to watch the lecture
Hymns and the First World War To mark our commemoration of the Great War and the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior, Anne has researched how hymns – sung, played or remembered – made an impact on the lives of combatants and of those left at home. This lecture will touch on collections of hymns in use at the time, with individual stories of how particular hymns brought consolation or a sense of corporate identity, functioned as patriotic symbols, raised morale and enabled prayer and mourning. Friday 20 November – 1pm GMT Anne Harrison Click here to watch the lecture
From Advent to Epiphany with J. S. Bach The content of this lecture will include both choral and organ music composed for that period, or which resonates with the themes of those seasons. Friday 27 November – 1pm GMT Canon Charles Stewart Click here to watch the lecture
‘A Touch of West Side Story’?: Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms The idea for Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms came from a commission from the Revd Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral, and from Bernstein’s own music-set Psalm texts. The genesis is fascinating: Hussey mentioned that he would ‘not mind if it had a touch of West Side Story’, and Bernstein responded with a piece that took up that idea in some surprising ways. With illustrations from the manuscript sources and correspondence between Bernstein and Hussey, this talk will explore the intriguing history of the Chichester Psalms. Friday 4 December – 1pm GMT Nigel Simeone Click here to watch the lecture
Victorian Church Music Composers: Is there a worthwhile legacy? During the Victorian era there were dramatic changes in both worship and musical education. The resulting explosion of composers who published music for the church choirs, organists and Sunday Schools is now largely forgotten. Is any of the music worthy of revival? Whatever our individual musical tastes, these were exciting and interesting times in the world of church music, and many of the personalities involved at make for interesting study. Friday 11 December – 1pm GMT John Henderson Click here to watch the lecture
A Day in the Life of Salisbury Cathedral, ca. 1500 This illustrated lecture will describe in outline what Friday December 18 would have been like some 500 years ago in Salisbury Cathedral, from the tolling of the bells for matins around 3 a.m. until the evening worship concludes with the antiphon to the Virgin in the Salve Chapel.  Samples of the music will be discussed, and particular attention will be paid to the system by which two ‘choirs’, chancel and chapel, coordinated their worship. Friday 18 December – 1pm GMT Professor William Renwick Click here to watch the lecture


Professor Magnus Williamson

Professor Magnus Williamson is Professor of Early Music, Newcastle University General Editor of the British Academy series, Early English Church Music, and principal investigator of the Tudor Partbooks project.

Anne Harrison

Anne Harrison is an Oxford music graduate with an MA in Music and Liturgy from the University of Leeds; she was Music Co-ordinator at St John’s College with Cranmer Hall, Durham, in the 1990s, and then worked for the Royal School of Church Music. A committee member of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland and a trustee of the Song and Hymn Writers Foundation, she chaired the editorial team for the hymn book supplement Sing Praise (Canterbury Press/RSCM 2010) and also helped to produce the 2013 Ancient & Modern. Anne has written two Grove booklets on congregational song and is music editor for Praxis News of Worship.

Canon Charles Stewart

Charles Stewart was born in Edinburgh and was a Choral Scholar at St John's College Cambridge, under the direction of Dr George Guest. After post-graduate study at the Royal Academy of Music, he qualified as a teacher, and spent several years teaching and singing, mainly with Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir, in concerts, broadcasts, recordings and many solo appearances.
In 1987 Charles was ordained in Chester Diocese. After posts in Bowdon and Bath Abbey, in 1994 he moved to Winchester Cathedral, where he served as Precentor and Sacrist, and then in 2006 to Walton-on-Thames as vicar. For nine seasons he conducted Southern Voices, a Winchester-based choir; concerts included Rachmaninov’s Vespers and Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Monteverdi 1610 Vespers, Bach’s St John Passion, St Matthew Passion, and Mass in B minor, and James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross. Since April 2015 Charles has been vicar of Christchurch, Dorset.

Nigel Simeone

Nigel Simeone was born in London in 1956 and read music at Manchester University. He has worked as a school teacher and university lecturer and is the author of several books including The Leonard Bernstein Letters (2013) and Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story (2009) as well as publications on the composers Janáček and Messiaen, and the conductor Charles Mackerras. He is currently working on a book about the musical friendship between Vaughan Williams and Adrian Boult. Nigel appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 (Record Review, Proms Plus) and Radio 4 (Tales from the Stave) and he has written notes for the Royal Opera House, Wigmore Hall, BBC Proms and leading record companies such as Chandos, Hyperion and Deutsche Grammophon.

Dr John Henderson

Dr John Henderson, probably Swindon's only full-time musicologist, was a medical graduate of St. John's College in Cambridge, where his interest in church music began, and was the senior partner of the NHS General Practice in Fairford, Gloucestershire until 1992. Since 1995 he has been Honorary Librarian and Archivist to the RSCM and was Chair of the RSCM Bristol Area Committee for nine years. A founding contributor of the RSCM’s Sunday by Sunday liturgical planner, an interest in organ music and its history led to his prize-winning Directory of Composers for Organ. His personal collection of 60,000 pieces of organ music supplies source material to many performers and recording companies world-wide. Director of Music at Wroughton Parish Church near Swindon, he has co-authored several books about the history of the RSCM. His only musical qualification is Grade 3 Recorder.

Professor William Renwick

William Renwick is Professor Emeritus of Music Theory in the School of the Arts, McMaster University, Canada, and his varied interests include Gregorian Chant as well as computer applications in music research. His publications include Sarum Compline (Gregorian Institute of Canada 2018, 3 vols; second edition 2020, forthcoming; Sarum Vespers (Gregorian Institute of Canada, 2019, 3 Vols) and Sarum Diural (Gregorian Institute of Canada, 2020, 3 vols) as well as a large number of articles. He is currently working on a complete scholarly and performing edition of the Sarum Rite. He is founding member of the Gregorian Institute of Canada, and was awarded the Fellowship of the RSCM earlier this year. In addition, William is an organist, brass player, composer and choral director. He is Master of the Music at Saint Mary the Virgin Church in Hamilton Ontario, Music Director and Organist at Holy Rosary Church in Burlington, Organist at Grace Church in Hamilton and Director of the Hamilton Schola Cantorum.

Geoffrey Webber

Geoffrey Webber is General Editor of the Church Music Society, Organist of Hampstead Parish Church and Associate Director of the Armonico Consort. He has spent most of his career working at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. His publications include North German Church Music in the Age of Buxtehude and, with Nicholas Thistlethwaite, the Cambridge Companion to the Organ, and as a choral director his CDs include programmes of music by Rebecca Clarke, Judith Weir and Cheryl Frances-Hoad.

Andrew Gant

Andrew Gant sang as a choral scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge, under the late Dr George Guest, and went on to hold posts in church music at Westminster Abbey, the Royal Military chapel (The Guards Chapel), and colleges of both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. From 2000-2013 he was Organist, Choirmaster and Composer at Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal, leading the music at many significant state events. He is the author of several books on musical subjects, including O Sing Unto The Lord: A History of English Church Music. His single-volume history of Western Music, “Five Straight Lines” is scheduled for publication in 2021. Andrew is a Lecturer in Music at St Peter’s college, Oxford, and actively involved in local politics.

Chloë Allison

Chloë Allison has recently completed her doctoral research in the Cambridge University Music Faculty, funded by the Art and Humanities Research Council and as an honorary Vice-Chancellor’s Award holder. Inspired by undergraduate courses on medieval music, her work explores how skilled Parisian singers at the end of the twelfth century went about creating complex, new kinds of polyphony to be sung in the equally new and impressive cathedral of Notre Dame.

As well as being an academic musician, she also sustains a vibrant performing career. With her Lied-duo partner Adam McDonagh, she is a 2019-20 Making Music Selected Artist and was a finalist in the London Song Festival British Art Song Competition in 2019. She has performed as a soloist with a number of Cambridge Orchestras, most recently singing Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder with the University Symphony Orchestra as winner of their Concerto Competition. Her onstage appearances include the title roles in La Cenerentola (2020) and Carmen (2019) with the University Opera Society, as well as La Zia Principessa (Suor Angelica), Ottavia (L’incoronazione di Poppea) and Lucretia (The Rape of Lucretia).

John Harper

John Harper is an established historian of music and liturgy. Over the years he has combined this work with choral direction, composing for liturgy, university teaching, and educational administration. His current research is principally directed to the study of the first cathedral at Salisbury from 1075 to 1225. He is emeritus director of the RSCM, emeritus professor at Bangor University, and honorary professor at the University of Birmingham.

Patrick Russill

Patrick Russill is one of the leading figures in English church music, noted equally as a performer. scholar, and teacher.  He is Director of Music at the London Oratory, Head of Choral Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, Visiting Professor of Choral Conducting at the Leipzig Hochschule für Musik und Theater, and Chairman of The Church Music Society.  From 2005 to 2017 he was Chief Examiner of the Royal College of Organists.  In 2015 he was honoured by the Association of British Choral Directors with its annual ‘Chair’s Award for Choral Leadership’, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of choral conducting conservatoire training in the UK, and in 2017 he was elected a Fellow of the RSCM in recognition of 'his seminal influence on three decades of students, many of whom now work in church and cathedral music.'   He is also a Vice-President of the Herbert Howells Society, and brought to light the previously lost Latin liturgical music of Herbert Howells written for Westminster Cathedral in editions for Novello and the Church Music Society (OUP). 

Stephen Shipley

Canon Stephen Shipley was a Producer and Presenter in the BBC’s Religion and Ethics department for 25 years until retirement in 2019.  For most of that time he was in charge of Choral Evensong on Radio 3 as well as being part of the production team involved in the radio coverage of national and royal events, which included the annual live broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from the chapel of King’s College Cambridge.  He read Music at Durham University and was organ scholar of University College Durham.  After ordination training at Westcott House Cambridge, he served a curacy in Ipswich and then was appointed Precentor of Ely Cathedral.  Now living in Buxton, where he has produced many Festival broadcasts from St John’s Church, he has been an Honorary Canon of Derby Cathedral since 2009.