Royal School of Church Music

The Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) is a Christian music education organisation dedicated to the promotion of music in Christian worship, in particular the repertoire and traditions of Anglican church music, largely through publications, training courses and an award scheme. The organisation was founded in England in 1927 by Sir Sydney Nicholson and today it operates internationally, with 8,500 members in over 40 countries worldwide, and is the largest church music organisation in Britain.[2]

Royal School of Church Music
PredecessorSchool of English Church Music
FounderSir Sydney Nicholson
Founded atSt Sepulchre-without-Newgate, London, UK
Legal statusCharity
PurposeMusic education; promotion of Anglican church music
HeadquartersSalisbury, Wiltshire, UK
Coordinates51°03′59″N 1°47′49″W / 51.0662697°N 1.7970334°W / 51.0662697; -1.7970334Coordinates: 51°03′59″N 1°47′49″W / 51.0662697°N 1.7970334°W / 51.0662697; -1.7970334
ProductsSheet music; RSCM Press educational books
ServicesTraining programmes, music printing press
Hugh Morris (2018-)

The RSCM was originally named the School of English Church Music and was only open to members of the Anglican Communion; today it is an interdenominational organisation, although it is still overseen by the Church of England.[3]

Choirs affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music often wear the RSCM medallion, which features a picture of Saint Nicolas, its patron saint.


The School of English Church Music (SECM) was founded in 1927 by Sir Sydney Nicholson, and opened at Buller’s Wood in Chislehurst in 1929. In 1945, it became the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM), and moved to Canterbury Cathedral. In 1954, it moved to Addington Palace and then in 1996 to Cleveland Lodge, Dorking. Since 2006, it has been based at Sarum College in Salisbury. [4]


The RSCM seeks to engage and encourage church music through awards, exams, publishing, residential courses and professional advice.[5]

Education programmes include the Voice for Life and Church Music Skills schemes, as well as the long-running residential courses.[6]

The RSCM publishes church music and other materials for choirs and organists, and produces a magazine, Church Music Quarterly (CMQ) which alongside Sunday by Sunday provides useful information for church musicians.

The Millennium Youth Choir is the charity's national youth choir which has sung for BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong and the Proms.[7][8] The RSCM Voices and RSCM Cathedral Singers are other choirs run by the RSCM.


  • The Director is Hugh Morris (since 2018)
  • President of the Royal School of Church Music in America is Joseph Causby
  • President of RSCM Australia is Ross Cobb
  • President of RSCM South Africa is Malcolm Chalmers
  • President of RSCM New Zealand is Paul Ellis
  • The patron is HM the Queen.

Directors of the RSCMEdit

1927–1947 Sydney Nicholson (formerly Organist of Carlisle and Manchester Cathedrals, and Westminster Abbey)

1954–1972 Gerald H. Knight[9] (formerly Assistant Organist of Truro Cathedral)

1972–1989 Lionel Dakers[10] (formerly Organist of Exeter and Ripon Cathedrals)

1989–1998 Harry Bramma[11] (formerly Assistant Organist of Worcester Cathedral and Organist of Southwark Cathedral)

1998–2007 John Harper[12]

2007–2012 Lindsay Gray[13][14]

2012–2018 Andrew Reid[15][16](formerly Master of the Music at Peterborough Cathedral; now Director of Harrison and Harrison)

2018–present Hugh Morris[17] (formerly Organist of Derby Cathedral)

Awards and medalsEdit

Head Chorister Medal
St Nicolas Award

The RSCM provides a series of grades and awards to signify varying levels of musical achievement. There are four basic merit awards – the light blue ribbon, the dark blue ribbon, the red ribbon and the yellow ribbon. These awards share the same medal.

Beyond these are several medals awarded after successful coursework and examination:

  • The Bronze award
  • The Silver award
  • The Gold award

The prerequisites of the Silver award are to hold either the Bronze award (or its predecessor, the Dean's/Provost's award), to have attended an RSCM event as a member of the choir and it is suggested that the candidate have a Grade 3 Theory (ABRSM) level of understanding.

The prerequisites of the Gold award are once again, to hold the level below, to have completed an RSCM course (preferably residential) and it is suggested that a Grade 5 Theory (ABRSM) level of understanding. The ABRSM Grade 8 Singing is of an approximate level but the Gold award has a larger syllabus and does not require the candidate to commit pieces to memory. Unlike the grade 8, a candidate must also create an order of service for any event he or she wishes, with an appropriate music list.

The new awards are now available to choristers of any age and have been brought in to standardise the awarding process. There are many area based rules for the old medals, which will all disappear as the old award candidates decide not to wear their medals due to age.

Examples include

  • in some areas a chorister may wear all medals at the same time while in others there is a limit of one.
  • a red ribbon (St Cecilia/Nicolas) may only be worn by those over 18 years in some areas, while other areas the highest medal always has a red ribbon.

The former medals are as follows:

For choristers up to the age of 16 For choristers up to the age of 21
  • The Dean's/Provost's award
  • The Bishop's Award
  • The Junior St Nicolas / St Cecilia Awards
  • The Senior St Nicolas / St Cecilia Awards

Head Chorister and Deputy Head Chorister medals are also used by some choirs.

Honorary awardsEdit

Every year the RSCM Council confers Honorary Awards on those who have made outstanding contributions to church music.[18] They are divided in:

  • Fellow of the RSCM (FRSCM):
    Awarded for achievements in church music and/or liturgy of international significance, or for exceptional musical and/or liturgical work within the RSCM.
  • Associate of the RSCM (ARSCM):
    Awarded for achievements in church music and/or liturgy of national significance, or for important musical and/or liturgical work within the RSCM.
  • Honorary Member of the RSCM (HonRSCM):
    Awarded 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.
  • Certificate of Special Service (CERTSS):
    Awarded 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.
Coat of arms of Royal School of Church Music
Granted 12 October 1950[19]
On a wreath of the colours a demi figure of St. Nicholas vested in pontificals Proper mitred and holding in his dexter hand a pastoral staff and in his sinister hand three purses Or.
Argent five barrulets Azure over all a lyre between six nightingales three and three respectant in pale Or on a chief of the second an open book Proper between two stars of eight points of the third.
Psallam Spiritu Et Mente

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • John Henderson and Trevor Jarvis, Sydney Nicholson and the College of St Nicolas: The Chislehurst Years, Salisbury: RSCM Press[20]
  • John Henderson and Trevor Jarvis, The Royal School of Church Music: The Addington Years - Hardback, Salisbury: RSCM Press[21]
  • John Henderson and Trevor Jarvis, Sydney Nicholson & his 'Musings of a Musician'[22]


  1. ^ Reid, Andrew. "The Spirit and the Mind" (PDF). RSCM. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  2. ^ "Press Pack" (PDF). The Royal School of Church Music. 2015. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 September 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  3. ^ "About RSCM". RSCM. Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  4. ^ "History of the RSCM". Royal School of Church Music.
  5. ^ "Our Mission". RSCM. Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  6. ^ Dakers, Lionel (1987). "The RSCM: Past, Present... and Future". The Musical Times. 128 (1732): 349–353. doi:10.2307/1193762. ISSN 0027-4666.
  7. ^ "RSCM Millennium Youth Choir at Lincoln Cathedral". Retrieved 2021-04-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Prom 68". BBC Music Events. Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  9. ^ "[Choral Accompaniment] Psalm 20 (Chant by Gerald Knight)". Viscount Organs. 2018-08-01. Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  10. ^ Harper, John (2003-03-22). "Obituary: Lionel Dakers". The Guardian. Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  11. ^ "Harry BRAMMA The Church Music of Dr. Harry Bramma - PRIORY PRCD1060 [JQ]: Classical Music Reviews - August 2012 MusicWeb-International". Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  12. ^ "John Harper | St. James Music Press". Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  13. ^ "Lindsay Gray, Director of RSCM is moving on | Church News Ireland". Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  14. ^ "Ex Queen's man wins top music post". Somerset County Gazette. Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  15. ^ "Andrew Reid – Harrison & Harrison Ltd". Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  16. ^ "Interview: Andrew Reid, director of the RSCM". Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  17. ^ "Hugh Morris, director, Royal School of Church Music". Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  18. ^ RSCM Honorary Awards – 2019
  19. ^ "Royal School of Church Music". Heraldry of the World. Retrieved 11 September 2021.
  20. ^ Henderson, John (2011). Sydney Nicholson and the College of St Nicolas : the Chislehurst years. J. Henderson Pub. ISBN 978-0-9528050-4-5. OCLC 780276055.
  21. ^ Henderson, John (2015). The Royal School of Church Music : the Addington years. Trevor Jarvis. Salisbury. ISBN 978-0-85402-251-9. OCLC 965503968.
  22. ^ Nicholson, Sydney H. (2013). Sydney Nicholson and his Musings of a musician. John Henderson, Trevor Jarvis. Salisbury, England: Royal School of Church Music. ISBN 978-0-85402-226-7. OCLC 882254525.

External linksEdit