Press Kit - The Marionettes Chorale

Press Kit - The Marionettes Chorale


About the Marionettes

Led by Artistic Director and conductor Gretta Taylor since 1974, the Marionettes

Chorale is one of the Caribbean’s leading choral groups and a household name in

Trinidad & Tobago. The first choir to be formed in newly independent Trinidad and

Tobago in 1963, it quickly distinguished itself in Trinidad and Tobago’s Music Festival

and internationally. In 1995, it launched the Marionettes Youth Chorale, and the two

groups regularly share the stage together at home. The organisation was officially

incorporated as a non-profit organisation in Trinidad & Tobago in 2005, and has

been sponsored since 1972 by bpTT.


The choir was founded in 1963 by Jocelyn Pierre and June Williams-Thorne to compete

in the 1964 Music Festival. It competed intermittently in the biennial festivals until 1980,

adjudged on each occasion as the Most Outstanding Choir. After 1980, the choir was

busy gaining respect on the international scene. Competing against the world’s finest

choral groups, the Marionettes won several awards at international choral festivals

and the praise of such distinguished musical figures as John Rutter, Philip Ledger,

Andrew Carter, Gwyn Arch and Havelock Nelson.

Tours & Cultural Exchanges

The choir has toured extensively in Britain, the Caribbean, and North and Central

America, receiving standing ovations from capacity audiences at prestigious venues

like St Martin-in-the-Fields in London and the Hall of the Americas in Washington. At

home, the Marionettes have hosted visiting choirs: the senior chorale appeared with

the Carnegie Mellon choir (Ohio, USA), and the Youth Chorale with the Juniata College

Choir (Pennsylvania, USA). In 2009 and 2011, the choir hosted visiting string players

from the UK who accompanied the group at concerts and led workshops with young


Charity work

The Marionettes Chorale regularly raises funds for charity, and in the last five years

has donated over TT$1 million for victims of domestic violence, hurricane relief efforts,

cancer treatment and prevention, mentoring programmes for at-risk youth, and care for

the terminally ill.


Mark Lyndersay

Leadership & Repertoire

Marionettes conductor, Gretta Taylor

The Marionettes have been led

by conductor and artistic director

Gretta Taylor and a committee

headed by founder-member

Joanne Mendes since 1974. In

2011, Caroline Taylor joined the

executive committee as assistant

artistic director, while Enrique Ali

succeeded Susan Dore as assistant

musical director. In the last few years,

its organising committee has grown

to include three generations of

Marionettes, many of whom are being

groomed for leadership positions as

part of the Marionettes’ succession


Under their leadership, the choir

has developed a repertoire that

spans a wide range of musical

styles, from 16th-century Gabrieli

to 20th-century Messiaen, as well

as opera, spirituals, musical theatre,

international folk songs, and calypso.

It has always championed Trinidad

and Tobago’s music, which it has performed extensively on overseas tours. The

Marionettes were one of the first to blend voices with steel in the 1960s, and have

been accompanied by many top steel orchestras – Pan Am North Stars, Trinidad All

Stars, Desperadoes, Skiffle Bunch, and their sister organisation, the bpTT Renegades.

Composers including the late Dr Havelock Nelson, Stewart Hylton Edwards and Alma

Pierre have dedicated original works to the choir.


Crucial to the longevity of the choir and its contribution to the community is the

support of bpTT (formerly Amoco), which has sponsored The Marionettes for 40 years.

Secretary Joanne Mendes says: “Without that support, the challenge of sustaining the

choirs over a long period would have been a hundred times harder. This has been a

model of thoughtful, well-targeted cultural support by a major corporation.”


International Tours

• 1965 Grenada, Barbados and St Vincent

• 1967 Curaçao, Jamaica, New York (United Nations), Toronto, Montreal

(Carifta Expo)

• 1969 Grenada (Carifta Expo)

• 1981 London (Commonwealth Institute); Llangollen, Wales (International Eisteddfod)

• 1984 London, Cork (Cork International Choral Festival, Ireland)

• 1992 London (sold-out concert at St Martin-in-the-Fields), Middlesbrough

(International Choral Festival), York, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow

• 1997 Miami, Mansfield College (Pennsylvania), Philadelphia, Washington DC (Hall

of the Americas), Princeton University, New York (Medgar Evers College)

• 2004 San José and Limón, Costa Rica


Prizes & Awards


• Humming Bird Medal (Gold) for its outstanding contribution to music in Trinidad

& Tobago (1987)

• Keys to the City of Port of Spain (1992)

• Port of Spain Corporation Achievement Award for sterling contribution to the

field of music (1999)

• Trinidad & Tobago Icon (History Makers) Award for distinguished service to

Trinidad & Tobago (2002)

• Trinidad & Tobago IBC Inc. (Independence Ball Committee, Miami) Award for

Outstanding Contribution to the Arts and Culture of the Republic of Trinidad &

Tobago (2006)

• Queen’s Hall Award for Contribution to the Performing Arts (2009)

Trinidad & Tobago Music Festival

• 1964 JCC Cup for Best Adult Choir

• 1966 JCC Cup for Best Adult Choir; Mary Elizabeth Evans Cup for

Best Religious & Church Choir

• 1968 Mary Elizabeth Evans Cup for Best Religious & Church Choir;

Merchants Trophy for Best Adult ‘X’ Class Choir;

Olive Walke Shield for Best All Round Choir;

Founder’s Trophy (May Johnstone Commemoration Trophy) for Most

Outstanding Performance of the Festival

• 1980 Ashdown Cup (Best Religious Open Choir over 20 singers); Lion’s Trophy

(Most Outstanding Choir of the Festival); JCC Cup (Best Adult Choir)

International Prizes

• Ruth Railton Prize for the most outstanding contribution by a visiting group at

the Cork International Choral and Dance Festival (Ireland, 1984)

• 2nd place, Madrigal Choirs, Cork International Choral and Dance Festival

(Ireland, 1984)

• 2nd place, Mixed Choirs, Cork International Choral and Dance Festival (Ireland,


• 2nd place, Mixed Choirs, Middlesbrough International Choral Festival (England,




Some of the major classical works sung by the choir:

• Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (1990) and Magnificat (2000)

• Beethoven’s Symphony 9th Symphony (Choral)

(finale: Ode to Joy, 1998 & 2000)

• Bernstein’s Missa Brevis (1993) and Chichester Psalms (1990)

• Borodin’s “Polovstian Dances” (from Prince Igor, with

international 45th anniversary orchestra, 2009)

• Bizet’s Carmen (2011: full production with international orchestra; &

2004: excerpts with the Trinidad & Tobago National Sinfonia)

• Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes (1975 & 2000) and Gypsy Songs (2000)

• Britten’s Ceremony of Carols (1995)

• Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert (Jazz Mass, 2009, excerpts)

• Fauré’s Requiem (1991)

• Fanshawe’s African Sanctus (1997, excerpts)

• Gabrieli’s 3-choir Magnificat (1978 & 1999)

• G. Gabrieli’s 2-choir Magnificat (1986)

• Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1978, excerpts)

• Handel’s Messiah (with the Pan Am Samaroo Jets steel orchestra, 1974)

• Robert Hay’s Gospel Mass (2009, excerpts)

• Haydn’s Mass in D Minor (Nelson Mass, 1981) and Te Deum (2005)

• Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer (1981)

• Mozart’s Solemn Vespers and Coronation Mass (2006, excerpts)

• Mozart’s The Magic Flute (1979) and The Marriage of Figaro (1977),

both for the Trinidad & Tobago Opera Company

• Orff’s Carmina Burana (1989 & 1994 with Belvedere, the Lorna Mae Mayers

Chorale and

Stentor Chorale)

• Poulenc’s

Gloria (1992)

• Puccini’s Messa

di Gloria (2009,


• Schubert’s Mass

in G (1986)

• Vaughan Williams’s

Five Mystical

Songs (1982)

and Fantasia

on Christmas

Carols (1991)



Some of the Broadway/West End shows from which the choir has sung concert excerpts:

• Aida (2007)

• Cats (1996)

• Candide (1996 & 2008)

• Chicago (2007)

• Fiddler On The Roof (2003 & 2004)

• Hairspray (2003 & 2008)

• Jesus Christ Superstar (2003)

• Les Misérables (2003, 2004, 2010)

• Man of La Mancha (1999)

• Miss Saigon (2003)

• My Fair Lady (2007)



• To Music (1972)

The Marionettes Live At Queen’s Hall (1989)

• Voices & Steel, with All Stars Steel Orchestra (1995)

• Christmas With The Marionettes (1998)

• Good News (2002)

• Sing Noel (2007)

• Oklahoma! (1999)

• Oliver (1999 & 2004)

• Phantom of the Opera (1996)

• Porgy And Bess (1978)

• Showboat (1999)

• Ragtime (2008)

• South Pacific (1999)

• Sister Act (1996 & 2008)

The Sound of Music (1999)

• West Side Story (1996, 2008 &



The Youth Chorale

Over the years, many children’s and school choirs have guested at Marionettes

concerts. But in 1995, the choir founded its own vibrant and show-stopping Youth

Chorale, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2010.

The Marionettes have always tried to give young artists a serious musical outlet

and environment, and the Youth Chorale has been the perfect vehicle for this. Its first

performance was given by 60 members, all girls, from 16 different schools. In July 1997,

it became a mixed group, with the addition of 30 boys. Its members now come from

over 30 schools all over Trinidad and Tobago, sharing their varied talents as singers,

dancers, actors, choreographers and instrumentalists.

Youth Chorale Christmas


Every Saturday, rain or shine, the members assemble to practise, despite all the competing

pressures of busy weekends – sports, extra lessons, confirmation classes, peer pressure

(even parental pressure on occasion), and all sorts of other extra-curricular activities.

Conductor Gretta Taylor is often asked whether a choir of over 80 spirited youngsters

isn’t something of a handful, even for an experienced teacher. Not a bit of it. “They

are generally well-mannered and talented,” she reports, “bursting with enthusiasm and

good humour. Even the ones who act out are usually experiencing their own problems

at home or school, and often all they need is an ear, a shoulder, and a bit of kindness.”


Arts & Education

There is every indication that healthy creative outlets like music-making bolster rather

than deter academic success. Over the years, many Youth Chorale members have

been outstanding exam performers, and some have become winners of both national

and international scholarships. Among the Marionettes membership and alumni are

talented young people who have won prestigious National, Rhodes, Commonwealth

and other university and foundation scholarships.

The Youth Chorale is a vital social tool, and a wonderful setting in which young people

can grow and explore their talent while making new friends and finding new mentors.

PanAm Jets


A Home of Our Own:

The Marionettes Property Fund

For most of the last 47 years, the Marionettes has rehearsed at All Saints’ Church, and

now at Greyfriars, whose support has been invaluable. But like most organisations,

especially as All Saints began renovations in 2011, there is a pressing need for their

own home.

The Marionettes centre, called Helios Hall, will be a multi-arts facility to be shared with

the national community. The Marionettes has made great strides toward achieving this


• In 2001, the group established the Marionettes Property Fund, and has raised

funds through walkathons, brunches, sale of CDs and merchandise, and private

donations and services through private donations and the Buy-a-Brick Programme

• In 2005, the Marionettes Chorale was incorporated as a not-for-profit

organisation in Trinidad & Tobago

• In 2006, the Marionettes received a plot of land in Mucurapo from the Government

of Trinidad & Tobago on which to build

The designs for the building have been drawn, and are in the final stages of

approval at the Port of Spain City Corporation (as of May 2011)

The Marionettes’ plans for the space are as big as their dreams as an organisation:

Secure rehearsal space

• Secure storage of their vast library (sheet music, photo albums, CDs, videos, instruments,

sets, costumes)

The Marionettes Arts Outreach Pilot Programme, including performing arts workshops,

scholarship and mentorship schemes, and master classes for students, children and


• Intimate performances by both the Marionettes and a range of other emerging and

established local artists and groups

• Studio and performance space for rental to other artists and groups.


How You Can Help

Individual monetary donations can be made:

• Via direct deposit or bank/wire transfer to

Republic Bank Account #150 215 057 101

• online via PayPal (at, or to

email address

• through our Buy-A-Brick drive at concerts and performances

• by mail by sending a cheque to The Marionettes Chorale, c/o 6 Prospect

Avenue, Maraval, Trinidad & Tobago

• Part proceeds of all our online CD (and future DVD) sales go to the Property

Fund. They can be bought at our concerts and events, and online through

iTunes,,, and many more

If you are a business, you can pledge building materials and services. Please send us

an email at or telephone Marionettes Manager Joanne

Mendes at (868) 790-1751.

Stay in touch!

49 years

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