Celebrating 60: save the dates (14–16 July, 2023)
by on June 23, 2023 in Featured Story News

We begin Celebrating 60 this July!

Join us as we kick off our 60th anniversary, diamond jubilee season with three performances in Port of Spain and San Fernando! The series is proudly supported by Columbus Communications (Flow).


• Friday 14th July @ the Church of the Assumption, 7:00pm
• Saturday 15th July @ All Saints’ Anglican Church, 7:00pm
• Sunday 16th July @ Naparima Bowl, 5:00pm


Tickets are $250, and are available from choir members and the Marionettes (790-1751, orders@marionetteschorale.com). Naparima Bowl tickets also available from 687-8072, 770-1665, and Valini’s Drug Mart (Sutton St, San Fernando).

The Marionettes Chorale Celebrating 60

About our 60th anniversary season

It was about this time 60 years ago when 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 becoming one of the nation’s most treasured cultural organisations. Next month, the choir launches their 60th anniversary, diamond jubilee season with Celebrating 60 (14–16 July), with performances in Port of Spain and San Fernando.

Back in the middle of 1963, this new choir’s founding directors were Jocelyn Pierre and June Williams-Thorne, who led the Chorale to their debut in the 1964 Music Festival, emerging with the coveted JCC Cup as the Best Adult Choir in the competition. Through a transition in leadership, the choir maintained its dominance at the national Music Festival after 1974 under Gretta Taylor (Musical Director), Susan Dore (Assistant Musical Director) and Joanne Mendes (Secretary and Production Manager). The Chorale retired unbeaten from local competition in 1980, winning the trophy for Most Outstanding Choir in the Festival each time it competed.

After 1980, the Marionettes set their sights on testing their mettle against the best choirs in the world — heavyweights from the UK, Europe, Asia and the Americas — and exposing international audiences to Caribbean music, winning four major prizes from the three UK international choral festivals in which they participated: Llangollen, Wales (1981), Cork, Ireland (1984), and Middlesbrough, England (1992).

In addition to competitive appearances internationally, the choir also travelled extensively across the Caribbean, North and Central America, and Great Britain, receiving standing ovations from capacity audiences at such prestigious venues as St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, the Assembly Rooms in York, the Hall of the Americas in Washington DC, and Carnegie Hall in New York.

At home, the Marionettes are known for breaking new musical ground. The group was the first to blend choral voices with the steelpan, in performance with the Pan Am North Stars in the 1960s. They also have given local or Caribbean premieres of celebrated works like including Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana (1988); Fanshawe’s African Sanctus (1997); Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs (1982), Britten’s Ceremony of Carols (1995); Poulenc’s Gloria (1992); Leonard Bernstein’s Missa Brevis (1993) and Chichester Psalms (1990); Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace) – including the accompanying film – in 2012; Rutter’s Mass of the Children (2018); Christopher Tin’s Calling All Dawns (2019); and the first full production of Les Misérables in the English-speaking Caribbean in 2014–15.

Their repertoire extends far beyond Western classical, however, and includes opera, spirituals, Broadway, Caribbean and international folk songs, and of course Trinidad & Tobago’s calypso. The Marionettes’ commitment to their national artforms includes the commissioning of choral arrangements of Caribbean and national folk songs, calypso and other music, to perform both at home and overseas. For 40 years, the late Desmond Waithe was an instrumental part of that. And in Celebrating 60, the group looks forward both to presenting some of his most popular arrangements, along with a new commission of Olatunji Yearwood’s “Engine room”, arranged by Kern Sumerville.

With Celebrating 60, the Marionettes celebrates both the past and the future. The programme revisits some of their proudest moments, including award-winning performances at local and international competition; Caribbean premieres; classic arrangements of regional favourites; and stirring numbers singled out by audiences over the decades. Performing will be some of the group’s best-loved soloists (like Hermina Charles, Jacqueline Johnson, Debbie Nahous, Errol James, Nigel Floyd, David Stephens, Jake Salloum, and more), as well as the Marionettes Youth Chorale (founded in 1995), under the batons of conductors from three generations — Artistic Musical Director Gretta Taylor, Dr Roger Henry, Caryll Warner, and Joshua Joseph.

Celebrating 60 runs at the Church of the Assumption (Friday 14th July at 7:00pm); All Saints’ Anglican Church (Saturday 15th July at 7:00pm); and Naparima Bowl (Sunday 16th July at 5:00pm). Tickets are $250, and available from members and from the Marionettes (790-1751, orders@marionetteschorale.com). Naparima Bowl tickets also available from 687-8072, 770-1665, and Valini’s Drug Mart (Sutton St, San Fernando).

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