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Sir Sydney Nicholson

The ashes of Sir Sydney Nicholson, organist, lie in the west cloister of Westminster Abbey. His gravestone was re-cut in 1975. He was born on 9th February 1875, a son of Sir Charles Nicholson and his wife Sarah (Keightley). His brothers were Sir C.A. Nicholson, architect, and Archibald, stained glass artist. He was educated at Rugby school and Oxford and studied at the Royal College of Music under Charles Villiers Stanford and Walter Parratt. After working as an organist at several churches, including Manchester Cathedral, he came to the Abbey as Organist and Master of the Choristers in 1919. In 1920 he composed a motet "The Supreme Sacrifice" in memory of the Unknown Warrior and later wrote music for a sequence for St Edward's Day from the 14th century Litlyngton Missal in the Abbey's library. He also composed music for the light opera "The Mermaid". The first BBC broadcast of choral evensong came from the Abbey in 1926 and he took the choirboys on a tour of Canada in 1927. He formed the larger Westminster Abbey Special Choir, which gave annual recitals. He resigned from the Abbey in 1928 to pursue his other interests including founding what is now the Royal School of Church Music. In 1938 he was knighted and died unmarried on 30th May 1947.

The grave inscription reads:

Sir Sydney Hugo Nicholson M.V.O. Organist of Westminster Abbey 1919-1928 Founder and Director of the Royal School of Church Music

Further reading

"Sydney Nicholson and his 'Musings of a Musician' by J. Henderson & T. Jarvis, RSCM 2013

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

"Vocation and Endeavour. Sir Sydney Nicholson and the early years of the RSCM" by Watkins Shaw, 1997

Born

9th February 1875

Died

30th May 1947

Occupation

Musician; composer

Location

Cloisters; West Cloister

Memorial Type

Grave

Sir Sydney Nicholson
Sir Sydney Nicholson

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Sir Sydney Nicholson
Sir Sydney Nicholson gravestone

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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You are surrounded by history at the Abbey, not like a museum where it’s just displayed, but here you are standing where history has happened.

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Gerlinde - Abbey Marshal

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