Sydney H. Nicholson

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

He was born in London and educated at Rugby School, New College, Oxford and the Royal College of Music, where he studied the organ. He then served as organist at Barnet Parish Church (1897–1903), Carlisle Cathedral (1904), Lower Chapel, Eton College (1904–1908), Manchester Cathedral (1908–1919), and Westminster Abbey (1919–1928).  Along with maintaining his organist posts, he edited the Hymns Ancient and Modern supplement that was published in 1916.

Something momentous would have to occur to persuade most away from playing the organ at the prestigious Westminster Abbey, but such was the case with Nicholson who was so concerned at the sad state of choral music in the parish churches throughout the country that in 1927 he founded the School of English Church Music (now the RSCM), in the hope of rectifying the problem.

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.  His anthem, “Beloved, Let Us Love One Another” was composed for the marriage of H.R.H. Princess Mary with the Viscount Lascelles. D.S.O. in Westminster Abbey on February 28, 1922.

In addition to having edited Hymns Ancient and Modern, still the standard hymn book in many Anglican churches, Nicholson wrote several hymn tunes. Of these, the most famous is Crucifer for the popular processional hymn “Lift High the Cross”. 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.