Marionettes conductor and artistic director, Gretta Taylor. Photo: Mark Lyndersay
Artistic & Musical Director / Conductor (1974–present)
Gretta Taylor (M.A., Dip Ed., H.B.M. Gold) joined the Chorale in 1965, soon after its formation, and was appointed conductor in 1974. With a strong commitment to public and community service, she has served the choir in an entirely volunteer capacity for over four decades. She has brought great choral music to audiences across the country, and has carried the Trinidad and Tobago flag on award-winning international tours with the Marionettes to North and Central America, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
Born in Trinidad, she is an accomplished pianist and a highly successful piano and vocal teacher. She has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Toronto, and a Diploma in Education from the University of the West Indies. In her personal capacity as a pianist, Gretta has won the Norah Grant Trophy and the Trinidad Guardian Cup on several occasions at the local biennial Music Festival. She has also completed musical and conducting courses at the Hereford Summer School of Music in London (1986) and the Talbot Lampson School for Choral Conductors & Accompanists in London (1986 & 1987), where she won the Richard Wood Award.
She taught languages (French and Spanish) from forms one to six at St. Joseph’s Convent in Port of Spain for 28 years prior to her retirement in 1994. There she also directed the school’s senior, intermediate and junior choirs for some 13 years, during which period the senior choir and its members consistently won top prizes in the biennial Music Festival for solo, ensemble and choral singing, including the prestigious Prime Minister Trophy for being the Most Outstanding Junior Choir of the festival. In 2004, she was inducted into the school’s Hall of Excellence. She also has been a coach and adviser to other young choirs such as Maria Regina Grade School and Sacred Heart Girls’ primary, and a judge for contests ranging from Calypso Monarch to Express Individual of the Year
Gretta Taylor leads the choir on their award-winning competitive 1984 tour
Gretta has developed and extended the Marionettes’ range and repertoire substantially in four decades as musical director. Under her leadership, the choir has tackled with great success major choral works never before performed in the Caribbean, often in a contemporary idiom unfamiliar to Caribbean audiences, and despite the absence of a conventional western orchestra.
They include Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus, and Karl Jenkins’s The Armed Man with its challenging technological demands, syncing the live music to a pre-recorded film. She also co-directed the group’s 2011 production of Carmen. Her rigorous choral training and high professional standards have made the Marionettes one of the most respected performing groups in the Caribbean.
Since 1974, Gretta has produced and directed at least two full-scale musical productions a year, each running for up to six nights and often with elaborate costumes, dance and sets, as well as countless other concert appearances and five demanding overseas tours. She founded and directs the Marionettes Youth Chorale and Children’s Choir, and has worked with a range of secondary and primary school choirs in Trinidad.
She received a national award in 1990 (the Humming Bird Medal — Gold) for her outstanding services to music and culture in Trinidad and Tobago, and a special City Day Mayoral Award in 2018 for her contribution to culture.
Gretta is a member of the Association of British Choral Directors (ABCD) and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and has attended its biennial conventions since 1993.
“We are extremely proud of our calypso and steelband traditions, and regularly adapt them for the choir. But we also want to show international audiences the vast range of talents and traditions that we have in the Caribbean. We want to move audiences with classic choral music as well as making their feet tap with our own traditional music, and do both equally well in the same programme.
Our top priority is to do good music of every kind, and to do it as well as we possibly can, because we believe in it, and because good music can speak to us all in a profound way if we take the trouble to listen.”
– Gretta Taylor
Susan Dore (standing), Gretta Taylor (left) and Joanne Mendes (right). Photo: Mark Lyndersay
Production Manager / Board Secretary (1974–present)
Joanne Mendes is one of the few remaining singers from the original group of Marionettes which debuted in 1964. She has been the Marionettes’ secretary since 1974, when she, Gretta and Susan assumed leadership of the choir. In addition to singing, she ensures that the various rehearsal and performance venues are booked and ready to go; keeps up-to-date membership and attendance lists; manages the choir’s finances and fundraising; liaises with long-time sponsors, bpTT; and does it all by meticulous advanced planning. As showtime nears, she also co-ordinates ticket distribution (delivering some personally), and oversees the show’s production elements. An enthusiastic and talented musician, Mendes trained for many years as a singer under the late Daphne Clifford. She competed successfully in many Music Festivals, both as a chorister and a soloist. Among her favourite singers are Grammy-award winning soprano Leontyne Price and mezzo-soprano Janet Baker. Her talents are not only musical, however, and Mendes has also shown a flair for the Carnival arts, helping out for several years in legendary masman Wayne Berkley’s mas camp. Joanne worked at AS Bryden and Geddes Grant/Huggins before co-founding Media & Editorial Projects (MEP). Like the rest of the choir’s production and artistic teams, she serves the group in an entirely volunteer capacity.
Director, Marionettes Property Fund (2012–present)
Assistant Musical Director (1974–2011)
Susan David Dore was born into a family rich in musical tradition, and has been involved with the Marionettes almost since its formation. By age 15, Susan had completed all the Royal School of Music Examinations to Grade VIII, most of them with Distinction. A product of St Theresa’s Intermediate School in Woodbrook, she began and ended her working life with Republic Bank, from which she retired in 2002 as General Manager, Human Resources after 38 years of unbroken service. She grew up musically in the T&T Music Festival from its earliest days at the Roxy Cinema and the Victoria Institute (part of the Museum complex), and finally at the Queen’s Hall where in her final years of competition she partnered her long-time friend and colleague Gretta Taylor, winning piano duet and duo classes as well as the respective championships. She was invited to assist the Marionettes as accompanist in 1965, then auditioned as a singer and stayed on, becoming a fixture in the alto section. When Jocelyn became ill and eventually departed in the 1970s and Gretta took over the musical leadership of the Marionettes, Susan became her assistant, a role she maintained for 35 years before retiring. She now continues to volunteer her time to the group as director of the Marionettes Property Fund.
From left: Assistant Musical Director Roger Henry; Assistant Production Manager Jacqueline Smith; Artistic & Musical Director Gretta Taylor; Production Manager Joanne Mendes; and Assistant Artistic Director Caroline Taylor. Photo: Mark Lyndersay
Roger J. Henry
Assistant Musical Director / Conductor (2012–present)
Dr. Roger J. Henry is a conductor, educator, and composer, currently serving as Assistant Professor of Music and Programme Leader for the Academy for the Performing Arts at The University of Trinidad and Tobago. In addition to his University work he continues to maintain a national profile in the Music community of Trinidad and Tobago, as Assistant Musical Director for the Marionettes Chorale, and as the Artistic Director and Conductor of the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Trinidad and Tobago. Dr. Henry holds a Doctor of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he graduated with minors in Voice and Music History & Literature. In a career spanning more than 25 years, Dr. Henry has served in faculty roles at both the secondary and tertiary levels, and has developed a reputation as a gifted and skillful educator. He has pursued musical excellence across a spectrum of contexts: in academia as well as in church, community, and professional music organisations. For the biennial Music Festival of the Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival Association in 2012, he and Richard Tang Yuk made history as the first local adjudicators to be invited to judge beyond the preliminary rounds. In 2013 Dr. Henry made his debut as a composer of choral music with the premiere of his composition, There Was a Man Sent From God, sung by the Marionettes. Dr. Henry is an advocate for music — for its power to encode, embody, and interpret human experience in the form of sound. He is committed to the enrichment of the musical life of Trinidad and Tobago, the education and artistic fulfillment of the country’s musicians, and the exploration of new avenues for musical creation.
Assistant Artistic Director (2011–present)
Caroline has grown up in the Marionettes, having sung with them for the first time in 1992 as part of a concert with the St. Monica’s Preparatory School choir, before becoming a founder member of the Marionettes Youth Chorale in 1995, joining the adult choir in 1998, the management committee in 2006, and the executive committee in 2011. In addition to performing and volunteering with the Marionettes, she has worked as an actor, writer, editor, director, and producer in publishing, theatre, film and television for over a decade. She now works on various aspects of the Marionettes’ artistic and production work. She was a driving force behind the Marionettes’ mounting undertaking Les Misérables (where she served as stage director), and Bizet’s Carmen (where she served as co-director). Winner of both a National Scholarship and a Commonwealth Scholarship, she has a BA in Performance Studies from Williams College and an MA in Theatre & Performance from the University of London (Goldsmiths), and also studied at the Lee Strasberg Film & Theatre Institute and Trinity/La MaMa Experimental Theatre Company in New York. Stage credits with Williamstheatre (MA, USA) include the title role in Euripides’ Medea, as well as Euripides’ The Bacchae, Chekhov’s The Seagull, and Stacy Cochran’s Prostitutes. Stage credits in Trinidad and the UK include Tony Hall/David Rudder’s Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club; 3canal’s SHINE; Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah; as well as Richard Ragoobarsingh’s Scandal and Lotto Madness, The Prime Minister’s Speech, Girls on the Side, Why Did I Get Married?, Party Done, and Theresa Awai’s Coming Home. Her solo show Pack Light also played at the New York International Fringe Festival. She recently made her screen debut in A Story About Wendy 2 and features in the upcoming TV series The Apartment. Outside of the performing arts, Caroline works at MEP Publishers on book and magazine projects, including Caribbean Beat and Discover Trinidad & Tobago. Time permitting, she also enjoys volunteering and freelancing with other publications, nonprofits, startups and SMBs, including multiple Medium Carnival Band of the Year, K2K Alliance & Partners. www.carolinetaylor.info
Assistant Production Manager (2011–present)
Jacqueline began singing seriously as a member of the St. Francois champion choir under Laura Franklin, and has been a member of the Marionettes for over 20 years. At the T&T Music Festival, she has won the Mayor’s Cup for Best Adult Solo (1999 & 2002); the Gatcliffe Cup for Best Oratorio (2002 & 2004); the ffrench Trophy for Most Outstanding Performer (1999); and the Jean Abdool Memorial Trophy for Most Outstanding Vocalist (2002). In addition to music, Jacqueline was a dancer with the Astor Johnson’s Repertory Dance Theatre (1983–1987), where she was exposed to folk, contemporary and jazz styles; and performed in Limin’ by Godfrey Sealey, and The Mall Story.