February 22, 2024

RSCM Director Hugh Morris in NZ

With a voice of inspiration, world-wide Royal School of Church Music Director, Hugh Morris, enthralled members and guests in St Andrew’s Anglican Church Hall. This first event of his NZ tour began with his opening address which dealt with The Past, Present, and Future of the RSCM. It took place on Saturday afternoon 17 February 2024, and was the start of his antipodean tour focusing on NZ and Australia. He dealt with the work of the RSCM and its wide-ranging contributions to music in worship, education, and community outreach.

Key Themes

1.Music is a relatively inexpensive, and accessible, way of sustaining the great inheritance of our church buildings, parishes and cultural life, into the future

2.RSCM wants children to have musical and personal skills development through engaging with church music

3.RSCM works to support churches to make the best of the music resources they have

Hugh Morris as we all remember him during his NZ travels.

Earlier that day, the RSCMNZ Council held a meeting with Director Hugh, being an ex officio member, as a welcome and energetic participant. Topics addressed included, overview of the financials, delivery of CMQ (& Sunday by Sunday) either electronically or postal, the Voice for Life Programme and its on-line facility, together with plans for validation and training as well as appointments to the roles of trainers and examiners. Communicating with the clergy and the importance of increasing the number and duration of sessions about the ministry of music in their Bible College syllabus was emphasised. Director Hugh gave insights about current RSCM initiatives encouraging the flourishing of church music, informing RSCM members and the wider community by sharing stories about the power of music in worship and holding forums plus workshops to provide “fresh inspiration”.

Hugh shared with Councillors the choral statistical picture from a survey carried out by RSCM

RSCM is focusing on Young People, Music Leadership and Clergy/lay leadership together with provision of resources through Music Direct and similar publishers.

Foundation Centenial approaching

The RSCM was founded 1927 by Sir Sydney Nicholson titled School of English Church Music (SECM).

Doors opened to host the new entity in 1929 at Buller’s Wood, Chislehurst. By 1945, King George VI decreed that it would henceforth have royal patronage and its name was changed to Royal School of Church Music (RSCM). Though starting under the auspices or the Church of England it gradually expanded to become an interdenominational world-wide powerhouse. Headquarters have been hosted by various Cathedrals and Palaces over the years. Currently it is housed at Sarum College in the precincts of Salisbury Cathedral. The name Sarum stems from the Roman rite (i.e. the Mass and related liturgy, procedures and observances of the Hours) dating from pre-reformation days.

NZ Tour

Hugh visited all five NZ Branches (Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Otago & Southland, finally Canterbury) before heading to Brisbane, as the start of his Australia leg of his tour, Tuesday 27 February 2024.


Progamme: Friday 16 Feb orientation; Saturday 17 Feb Council mtg 10.00am; Open forum; Sunday 18 Feb, Morning Service at Holy Trinity Cathedral with inspirational sermon from Dean Anne Mills supported by Peter Watts conducing the Choir and organist Dr Philip Smith.

Branch Chairman Neil Shroff added the following comments .

It was a delight to welcome RSCM Director, Hugh Morris to Auckland on the 16th of February. After a day to get over jet lag, Hugh spent a few hours on Holy Trinity Cathedral Organ, giving this Nicholson masterpiece a good work out. In the evening a very enjoyable ‘Meet and Greet’ event was held in the garden of our chaplain’s residence. On Saturday morning the NZ RSCM Council met with Hugh for a very useful two hour session and in the afternoon an open forum was held at Saint Andrew’s Church Centre in Epsom. Hugh spoke to a group of about forty church music practitioners about his work and the future plans for the RSCM. This was followed by afternoon tea with many opportunities for attendees to chat with Hugh. On Sunday morning Hugh attended the Choral Eucharist at Holy Trinity Cathedral before leaving for the Waikato branch. All concerned found Hugh to be a most engaging, energetic and warm personality and a huge asset to the RSCM as an organization. It was a great pleasure to share in his birthday celebration whilst he was with us in Auckland. [Coincidentally, it was also a birthday celebration on the same day for Wellington’s Chair, Rev Alison Stewart and they shared the cake specially baked for them and for those attending.] We look forward to rejuvenated relationships with the RSCM and would be delighted to welcome Hugh back to our city.


RSCM Director’s visit to Hamilton and Matamata.

Hugh Morris, Director of the RSCM visited the Waikato area on Sunday 18th and Monday 19th February, as part of his visit to 5 centres in New Zealand.

During Choral Evensong in St Peter’s Cathedral Hamilton on the Sunday evening, Hugh shared the conducting of the choir of 40 choristers with the D.O.M Dr Rachael Griffiths-Hughes. The choristers included the Cathedral choir, and RSCM choristers from Cambridge, Matamata, Gordonton, Tauranga,  New Plymouth and South Auckland.  It was a very inspiring experience to sing under Hugh’s direction in the rehearsal and service. Some sections of the choir involved 8-10 choristers producing strong harmony and equally strong unison singing. At the conclusion of the rehearsal Merv Hunt, Secretary/Treasurer of RSCM Waikato announced that it was Hugh’s birthday and led a lusty harmonised singing of ‘Happy birthday’.  Archdeacon Rev’d Andrew Evans – Chaplain of the Waikato Branch of the RSCM preached a stirring and inspiring sermon. The Rev’d Peter Lord Cowell was the Officiant and Precentor. During supper after the service, I (Waikato Chairman Brookes) presented Hugh with a gift of a Maori Fishhook, Hei Matua, carved from NZ Timber, and a thank you/birthday card illustrating in water colour St Andrew’s Church Cambridge, painted by Marion Hunt. On the Monday I organised a visit to Southwell School Hamilton for Hugh where he conducted a Workshop in the chapel with 50 young choristers.  Hugh showed that he can relate to and inspire choristers of all ages, and not only introduced some interesting warm-ups, but also a new Psalm. The choir sang two of their favourite hymns at the end of the workshop, one being a Maori hymn, which was a new experience for Hugh. (A full report of this workshop follows, written by the DOM of Southwell School, Julia McIntyre.)

Chairman Dave Brookes transported Hugh from Hamilton to Matamata via Morrinsville, where he was fascinated with the huge statue of the cow just outside Morrinsville (which is one of many cows scattered throughout the town) .  On our journey back via Walton Hugh was amazed at the Kaimai Range, and the fertile Plains, and took many photos.

While relaxing at home of Chairman Brookes in Matamata Hugh was interviewed by Caron Stewart for the local ‘Scene’ newspaper, during which Hugh explained the formation and aims of the RSCM, his role as the Director, and future plans of the organisation. These include digital membership and receiving the quarterly magazine worldwide by email. He stressed the need for the formation of church youth choirs if choral music in worship is to flourish and continue in the future.

On Monday evening Hugh was the guest of Jill and Dave Brokes at a dinner at the Sofra restaurant in Matamata, It was attended by 14 church musicians, including several from Hamilton and Cambridge, and two from Tauranga. During the evening our Branch Chaplain led us with Grace, and I led a toast to the RSCM. Hugh briefly spoke about the need to foster and encourage youth choirs in church worship. The evening concluded with us wishing Hugh safe travel around NZ and Australia and thanking him for inspiring us with his leadership and musicianship in such a friendly manner.

David Brookes.

Chair: RSCM Waikato

Caron Stewart, Waikato news reporter shares the story of her interview with Hugh.


Programme: Hugh met and greeted Branch officers on Tuesday 20 Feb at St Peter’s Willis Street and Hugh had a chance to play the organ. Then a Pot-Luck Dinner together with a Q & A session at the Garden Room of St Peter’s Willis Street. Wed 21 Feb Hugh was taken to Marton for lunch and a opportunity to play the organ of St Stephen’s. In the afternoon there was a tour of Huntly School and an opportunity to play the Chapel Organ. Hugh rehearsed the Huntly School Chapel Choir and conducted a workshop. In the early evening he travelled to Palmerston North meeting RSCM officers and members at the city before travelling to Paremata for an ovenight stay. From there he reached nearby Wellington city 10.00am Thu 22 Feb. He met Michael Stewart D of M of St Paul’s Cathedral and other RSCM officers and members. Hugh recalled seeing a certificate on a wall showing that they had joined the RSCM in 1935.

Otago & Southland

In mid-afternoon Thu 22 Feb Hugh flies to Dunedin to conduct Evensong (Karen Knudson plays the organ) at St Paul’s Cathedral in the Octagon. Hugh follows Evensong with a workshop and then dinner hosted by John Buchanan. Friday 23 Feb afternoon may include a visit to Dunedin’s Peninsular. He is billeted that night by Juan Kinnear, the Branch Chaplain. Hugh flies to Christchurch on the morning of Saturday 24 Feb.

Alan Edwards, Committee member gives further details.

Hugh flew to Dunedin on Thursday 22 February, arriving at St Paul’s Cathedral only just in time (thanks to a detour as the result of a temporary closure of State Highway 1) to rehearse the Cathedral Choir in some of the music for the 6pm Evensong. He conducted the choir for the service. Then, with scarcely a chance to draw breath, and little time to prepare the music himself, Hugh then conducted, with considerable aplomb, a workshop for some two dozen singers from a wide range of local church and secular choirs. This focused on learning John Rutter’s four-part, unaccompanied, ‘A Ukrainian Prayer’ (using the Ukrainian text), but skillfully included mini-breaks in which Hugh spoke briefly but inspiringly about the aims and objectives of the RSCM.

Hugh conducting Choristers at St Pauls Cathedral in the Octagon Dunedin

Several participants volunteered to sing the short solo segments and Hugh kept spirits high with words of encouragement and witty asides. Hugh’s observations, tips and suggestions ensured that our singing continued to improve through to the end of the demanding but enjoyable session. He was billeted that night with committee member, John Buchanan.

Friday was a ‘rest’ day, during which, in gloriously calm, sunny weather, Hugh was driven around the city and environs, including a walk through the Orokonui Ecosanctury, observing takahe with chicks as well as other avian natives such as tui, kaka, bellbirds and kereru. Otago Harbour looked splendid from many viewpoints, both on the Port Chalmers side and from the high and low roads of the Otago Peninsula. The jaunt concluded with afternoon tea in the very English surroundings of Glenfalloch Gardens. After staying the night in Ravensbourne in the care of Revd Juan Kinnear, Branch Chaplain, Hugh left from Momona Airport first thing on Saturday morning for Christchurch.


President RSCMNZ, Paul Ellis, met Hugh on his morning arrival at Christchurch Sat 24 Feb and he & Jane hosted him during his stay with the Canterbury Branch.

Hugh Morris enthusiastic and inspirational

Hugh Morris enthralled members attending Knox Church Christchurch with the story of the RSCM yesterday, today and in the future. on that Saturday afternoon. He began by describing NZ and Australia as two of RSCM’s finest partners. He went on to say that some of his best experiences had come as a result of singing hymns. Once he had asked Rowan Williams (a past Archbishop of Canterbury) “What shall I do?”. The response was “Get the people to sing”. During his address he invited everyone present to ask their neighbours, “What do hymns mean to you?” One respondent was understood to have said, “They give me spiritual uplift.” Another, “Hymns help me express my devotion to God”. Hugh emphasised that the RSCM was reliant on the tens of thousands of volunteers. The help that RSCM gives includes its website, music resources from the publishing arm and Voice for Life training. It was essential that RSCM should also focus on young people. A survey of church choirs, their member numbers, ages and composition (ie SATB, SA, Unison only etc.) had been conducted recently. It revealed various percentages of fully staffed Cathedral Choirs to the many churches without any choirs. It was an RSCM aim to encourage and support the latter so music could flourish.

Revd Dr Matthew Jack Knox Church Christchurch shared his insights about Hymnody. The essence was a combination of “text, music and faith”. He confessed he had once written the lyrics for a hymn which was set to music by one of his friends (Mark). It was well received and NZ Television One from time to time would play it in their regular Sunday programme, Praise Be. For this, Matthew would receive each time the princely sum of 3¢ (i.e. 10% of the fee, whereas composer Mark would receive 27¢ i.e. 90% through APRA – Australasian Performing Rights Association). The first hymn he ever heard and sang was No. 1 in the Presbyterian Hymn Book, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty”. A significant aspect of hymnody in NZ (and indeed further afield) is that from numerous examples of ‘home grown’ hymns congregations are encouraged to express their faith from texts which give every day recognition to life. It was interesting that the Lexionary seemed to use a 3-year cycle whereby suggested hymns re-appeared each rotation.

Community Hymn singing of favourites and some new to members enhanced a memorable afternoon at Knox Church Christchurch. Pictured below is St Peter’s Upper Riccarton Choir offering hymns conducted by Bob Gaudin (he shared a very erudite description about each of them) and Bill Grubb at the organ.

Hugh together with Rev Dr Matthew Jack held a forum for RSCM officers and members titled Past Present and Future at Knox Church on Bealey Ave on the Saturday. Matthew spoke about Hymnody whilst Hugh gave a vision of the RSCM yesterday, today and tomorrow. This was followed by a dinner, the like of which would be the envy of The Ritz, for Hugh and branch committee members and partners hosted by Canterbury Committee Member, Philip and Jocelyn Richards. On Sunday 25 Feb Hugh attends 11.00am Mass at the Catholic Pro-Cathedral (St Mary’s Manchester Street). Following the Mass Hugh together with RSCM members travels to Timaru for a 3.00pm rehearsal and 5.00pm Evensong at St Mary’s Church. This was a come and sing Evensong event directed by Hugh Morris.

Hugh returns to Christchurch with Paul Ellis for overnight Sunday. Monday 26 February is set aside for relaxing and sight-seeing. On Tuesday morning 27 Feb Hugh visits Cathedral Grammar as a guest of the D of M, Chris Adams, with opportunities to interface with school and Cathedral choristers. This was the final event of Hugh’s NZ tour and in mid-afternoon he flew to Brisbane Australia for the next leg of his southern tour. ~ ~ ~

Hugh Morris RSCM world-wide Director and President RSCMNZ Paul Ellis relax at the top of the Port Hills Christchurch overlooking the City’s Port waters just before Hugh left NZ for Australia.