Sydney Nicholson

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Sir Sydney Hugo Nicholson MVO (9 February 1875 – 30 May 1947) was an English choir director, organist, composer, and founder of the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) and the compiler of The Parish Psalter.


Nicholson was born in London to Sir Charles Nicholson, 1st Baronet, and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Nicholson (née Keightley). His elder brother was architect Sir Charles Nicholson; his younger brother was the stained-glass artist Archibald Keightley Nicholson.[1]

He was educated at New College, Oxford and the Royal College of Music.[2] At this last-named institution, he studied the organ. He then served as organist at Barnet Parish Church (1897–1903),[3] Carlisle Cathedral (1904), Lower Chapel, Eton College (1904–1908), Manchester Cathedral (1908–1919), and Westminster Abbey (1919–1928).[4] Along with maintaining his organist posts, he edited the Hymns Ancient and Modern supplement that was published in 1916; he did not live to see the 1950 revised edition.[citation needed]

In 1927 Nicholson founded the School of English Church Music (now the RSCM). The School's members initially met at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.[citation needed]

One of Nicholson's most successful compositions for parish choirs was his Communion Service in G, which was widely sung, especially in Anglo-Catholic churches, until recent times. He was warden of St Nicholas College, Chislehurst (1928–1939).[5]

In addition to having edited Hymns Ancient and Modern, still the standard hymn book in many Anglican churches today, Nicholson wrote several hymn tunes. Of these, the most famous are Crucifer for the popular processional hymn Lift High the Cross and Totteridge. In 1928 he received the Lambeth DMus, and a decade later he was knighted for his services to Church music. He died at Ashford, Kent at the age of 72, and was buried at Westminster Abbey.[6]


Books on Church Music[edit]

  • Church Music (1920) London: Faith Press
  • Boys' Choirs (1922) Glasgow
  • Church Music A Practical Handbook (1927) London: Faith Press
  • In Quires and Places where they sing (1932) London: Bell
  • Peter: Adventures of a chorister 1137-1937 (1944) London: SPCK (fiction)
  • Practical Methods of Choir Training (1947) London: SPCK (now RSCM)
  • The Elements of Extemporisation (n.d.) Croydon: RSCM

Other books[edit]

  • British Songs for British Boys (1903 with several later reprints). A collection of one hundred and eight national songs. Macmillan and Company, London .


  • An Ode on the Birth of our Saviour
  • Cleanse us, O Lord
  • God be in my head
  • Let us with a gladsome mind
  • Love divine, all loves excelling
  • My song is love unknown
  • Teach us, good Lord, to serve Thee (boys' voices)


  • The Saviour of the World


  • Evening Service in D-flat major
  • Evening Service on Parisian Tones
  • Communion Service in G major
  • Jubilate in F major (boys' voices)

Hymn tunes[edit]



  • The Boy Bishop: an Opera for Boys (1926)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Godfrey, W. H. Nicholson, Charles Archibald, second baronet, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, 23 September 2004, retrieved 10 May 2020.
  2. ^ The American organist - Volume 22, p. 162
  3. ^ The Musical Herald - Issues 658-669, p. 40. John Spencer Curwen - 1903
  4. ^ In Tuneful Accord: The Church Musicians. Trevor Beeson. Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd, 1 November 2009.
  5. ^ Armstrong Siddeley Motors: The Cars, the Company and the People in Definitive Detail. Bill Smith. Veloce Publishing Ltd, 2006.
  6. ^ Abbey Commemorations, Westminster Abbey website, accessed 18 April 2023
  7. ^ "Sydney H. Nicholson |". Retrieved 18 February 2022.
Cultural offices
Preceded by
E. G. Mercer
Organist of Carlisle Cathedral
Succeeded by
Preceded by Organist and Master of the Choristers of Manchester Cathedral
Succeeded by
Archibald Wilson
Preceded by Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey
Succeeded by