I first met her at an English Song course I was giving at Snape in Suffolk when she was an outstanding student, having recently graduated from the Guildhall School of Music in 1981, with flying colours. Her strikingly beautiful, agile voice, effortless musicianship and gift for communication augured well for a bright future.
She won several important competitions, including the 1986 GKN English Song Award and the Soprano Prize of the Great Grimsby International Singing Competition, and was successful in being chosen for schemes for young artists, such as the Park Lane Group's series. For a few years, from 1982 to 1985, the BBC Singers gave her a stable base on which to build her solo career. Regular oratorio and broadcast engagements followed, including work with the Bach Choir, the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra and appearances with the BBC Symphony Orchestra which included singing at the Proms concerts. Amongst her recorded work was Rawsthorne's Second Symphony with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Songs for Voice and Harp by Edmund Rubbra, and Songs by Thomas Pitfield.
Always interested in new music, she developed relationships with composers such as the late Elizabeth Maconchy, Nicola Lefanu, David Lumsdaine and Gillian Whitehead, and promoted their work with energy and enthusiasm. In 1993 she toured New Zealand and gave the first performance of Gillian Whitehead's Awa Herea. She made fruitful contacts in New Zealand, and a third antipodean tour was being planned.
Her career was, inevitably, badly affected by her battle against leukaemia, diagnosed in 1990, at a time when her career was crucially poised between the stages of "young" and "established" performer. However it was impossible to think of her as a "victim" - her complete absence of self-pity and sentimentality dispelled any such thoughts. Through the long months of treatment and periods of hospitalisation, she fulfilled as many engagements as she was able. After two bone marrow transplants she appeared to have made a miraculous recovery, and resumed her career with undiminished zest. She made a first comeback appearance at a recital at the Wigmore Hall in London in January 1994, with her long-time accompanist Pamela Lidiard, and then in April of the same year appeared at the Royal Festival Hall singing Britten's Les Illuminations with the Kreisler String Orchestra.
To mourn a younger colleague cut off in mid-career is particularly poignant. Tracey Chadwell was not just a fine singer, and devoted friend. Her qualities, put to a harder test than most people have to bear, were of heroic proportions, and provided an inspiring example of true professionalism and generosity of spirit.
Tracey Chadwell, soprano: born 9 March 1959; died 12 January 1996.Reuse content