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Marionettes celebrate 45 years of musical excellence

Saturday, May 30 2009

BY THIS time 45 years ago, the first members of the Marionettes Chorale – the first choir to be formed in a newly-independent Trinidad & Tobago – had just come together to begin a trailblazing journey to being one of the nation’s most treasured cultural organisations. The new choir’s founding directors were Jocelyn Pierre and June Williams-Thorne, who led the Chorale to their performing and competitive debut in the 1964 Music Festival. Singing with founder members Joanne Mendes – still the group’s secretary – and the honourable Mayor of Port-of-Spain Murchison Brown, the new group won the coveted JCC Cup as the Best Adult Choir in the competition.

Through a transition in leadership when Williams-Thorne departed in 1968 and Pierre in 1974, the choir maintained its dominance at the national Music Festival under new Musical Director Gretta Taylor, Assistant Musical Director Susan Dore and Secretary Joanne Mendes, who celebrate 35 years at the helm this year. The Chorale retired unbeaten from local competition in 1980, winning the trophy for Most Outstanding Choir in the Festival all eight times it competed.

After 1980, the choir turned its sights to measuring up against the best choirs in the world and exposing international audiences to Caribbean music. Competing against heavyweights from Europe, Asia and the Americas (including former colonial rulers England), the Marionettes won four major prizes from the three International Choral Festivals in which they participated: Llangollen, Wales (1981), Cork, Ireland (1984) and Middlesbrough, England (1992).

Over its illustrious 45-year history, the Chorale has enjoyed tremendously successful tours through the Americas (Barbados, Canada, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Grenada, Jamaica, St Vincent, and the United States) and Great Britain (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales), receiving standing ovations from capacity audiences at such prestigious venues as St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, the Assembly Rooms in York, and the Hall of the Americas in Washington DC, performing for internationally acclaimed personalities such as Lord Browne and Colin Powell. In the process, such distinguished musical figures as John Rutter, Philip Ledger, Andrew Carter, Gwyn Arch, and Dr John Havelock-Nelson were high in their praises of the Chorale’s performances.

In the coming months, the Marionettes look forward to honouring, remembering, and sharing a rich and powerful history as they celebrate 45 years of musical excellence with the nation. They do this with the generous and unstinting support of bptt, who have sponsored the group since 1972 and have been an immeasurable part of the group’s continued success and community work.

The Marionettes began the 45th anniversary celebrations last December with their sold- “Holiday Moods” concert. Ahead of their mid-year concert, which runs July 10-12 and has many special treats in store, the group will join with two other stalwart organisations marking anniversaries – the Queen’s Hall and Signal Hill Alumni Choir – with performances at the Queen’s Hall on June 3rd and 20th respectively.

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