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Chorale’s Christmas celebration

Marionettes marks jubilee...looks to the future
Published: 
Sunday, November 24, 2013
The Marionettes in concert. Photo courtesy: Butch and Allan Limchoy/ BP Marionettes.

Christmas 2013 signals the finale of the BP Marionettes Chorale’s year-long celebration of its 50th Anniversary. A Christmas Jubilee, the end-of-year show, continues in the choir’s theme, Celebrating 50 years of artistic excellence in T&T, and will run from December 5-8. According to their official Web site, the formation of the Marionettes was initiated in the middle of 1963, when a notice appeared in the Talk of Trinidad column of the Trinidad Guardian, announcing the formation of a new choir and inviting singers to come for an audition. The response was overwhelming, and soon the choir was formed under the direction of Jocelyn Pierre and June Williams-Thorne. Sponsored by bpTT since 1972, and incorporated as a non-profit organisation in 2005 the BP Marionettes Chorale is one of the Caribbean’s most celebrated choirs, both at home and abroad.

 

In 1995 the youth chorale was formed, followed by the children’s choir in 2012. Their young members now come from over 50 schools and universities nationwide. Led by artistic and musical director Gretta Taylor, assistant musical director Dr Roger Henry, assistant artistic director Caroline Taylor, assistant production manager Jacqueline Smith, property fund director Susan Dore, and a committee headed by founder member and production manager Joanne Mendes, the choirs mount at least two major productions a year, showcasing a repertoire ranging from European Renaissance to opera, Broadway, Caribbean folk and calypso. The accomplishments of the Marionettes Chorale have included success at national and international music festival competitions, tours with the choir, cultural exchanges and charity work at home and abroad.  To date, the Marionettes Chorale has donated over $1 million towards survivors of domestic violence, hurricane relief efforts, cancer treatment and prevention, mentoring programmes for at-risk youth, and care for the terminally ill. 

 

“[It’s been] very taxing, especially time-wise, for me personally—but extremely rewarding,” said Gretta Taylor. “The children’s choir was formed just last year, so it has been a challenge allowing each group to define their own identity while also finding the time and rehearsal space to accommodate their growth. After some experimentation, I think we have found that balance. All the youngsters are a joy to work with—full of fun and loaded with talent.” The three choirs sing alone, as well as in combination. The youth chorale includes singers under the age of 26, and between the youth and children’s choirs there are about 100 choristers. The idea of succession planning seems rooted at the core of the chorale. “In a retrospective year, we proudly look back, of course, on our past achievements,” Taylor said. “But we also look to the future and are preparing for growth and succession. The management team comprises dedicated and committed people across several generations.” 

 

At the upcoming Christmas concert, a new figure will take position behind the conductor’s stand: long-time choir member Dr Roger Henry. Henry returned to Trinidad in 2012 after completing his doctorate in choral conducting in the United States, and he has served as the Marionettes’ assistant musical director ever since. The featured highlight of the concert will be the world premiere of an original piece written by Henry, There Was a Man Sent From God. At just under six minutes long, the work is a contemplative choral rendering of 13 verses from the biblical Book of John. The piece will call for a six-part choir with soprano and baritone solos. Included with this debut will be other pieces specially selected by Taylor and her team according to each choir’s performance style. 

 

“I try to choose music which brings out the best in each age group when they sing on their own, as well as a few pieces written in such a way that all three choirs are able to shine,” she said.
In addition to other media collaborators, Flow (Columbus Communications) has come on board for the Christmas concert. Flow’s Local On-Demand platform will soon make several of the Marionettes’ most popular concerts available, with all proceeds going to the Marionettes’ Property Fund. “We launched our property fund in 2011 to build our own rehearsal and performance space in the not-too-distant future, a development which will assist us in our goal of helping to nurture the artistic talents of as many as cross our path—both our own members and budding artists nationwide,” said Taylor. To Taylor, the message for the audience from the Marionettes this Christmas is “one which we believe is consistent with the true spirit of Christmas: love, community, giving, sharing, forgiveness, altruism; that despite all the negatives around us, we can use music to heal. There is no other gift like it.”

 

For Tickets: Tickets go on sale from members today, and at the Queen’s Hall Box Office from tomorrow. Box office: 624-1284, open 10 am–6 pm, Monday–Saturday. The choir is also booking tickets at [email protected] and 790-1751. There is an early bird special of ten per cent off all tickets to the Thursday opening night performance if purchased by December 1.

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