Heartfelt tributes have been paid to an award-winning and “pioneering” women’s barbershop musician from Cheam, who has died following a long battle with an illness.

Jenny Lawson, who founded women’s barbershop chorus Surrey Harmony in 1990, passed away at the age of 76 on April 6.

A proficient musical director and arranger in her field of music, she won plaudits for her achievements in the UK and overseas during her career.

One of her biggest accomplishments was when she directed Surrey Harmony to their then highest-ever placing, 15th, at the Sweet Adelines International competition in 2009.

And after retiring in 2013 Mrs Lawson was also awarded, in absentia, the prestigious Ann Gooch Award by the Sweet Adelines International organisation in 2017.

Some of her peers say she pioneered women’s barbershop music into the mainstream, particularly with Surrey Harmony’s involvement in the Sainsbury’s Choir of the Year and a televised concert at St James’s Palace in Westminster.

In a statement, Surrey Harmony said: “It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we must announce that our founding master director, Jenny Lawson, died after a long illness on April 6.

“Jenny was extremely grateful to the local NHS staff and services who provided her with treatment and care over recent years.

“[She] had a natural talent and a fantastic musical ear, which led her to strive for accuracy and excellent for her happy group of singers.

“As director, she brought her natural comedic wit to rehearsals every week, often having the chorus in fits of laughter.

“Her legacy of developing excellent singers has spread from Surrey Harmony, with ex-members now running or being part of many other well-respected and successful barbershop choruses like London City Angels, Vocal Dimension Chorus, Viva Acappella [etc].

“She will be remembered in so many wonderful ways by family and friends, and all those who had the pleasure to sing with her, be directed or coached by her, and by those who knew her through the barbershop community.”

Mrs Lawson won five regional gold medals, seven silvers, two wildcards and made several international appearances during her barbershop music career.

Her founded choir Surrey Harmony, based in Coulsdon, has gone on to represent Region 31 at the Sweet Adelines International competition at least seven times.

She leaves behind her husband, retired GP Dr Tim Lawson, and two children – author and journalist Debbie and musician Sandy.

Now Mrs Lawson’s family is inviting people to attend her funeral and celebration of her life at the North East Surrey Crematorium on April 23.

Money is also being raised for Marie Curie Cancer Care and St Raphael’s Hospice via a JustGiving page, with a £100 target having been set.

You can visit the JustGiving page by clicking here.