Christmas with the Marionettes: Celebrating 60!
by on November 15, 2023 in News

Everyone is invited to come and experience the sweet sounds of the festive season as The Marionettes Chorale presents Christmas with the Marionettes, its annual concert scheduled for Friday 1st through Sunday 3rd December at Queen’s Hall, Port of Spain. As of mid-November, limited tickets remain for all three performances, with very limited reserved tickets left for Saturday and Sunday. Patrons can secure theirs early by booking conveniently online until November 25th (after which tickets will be available exclusively from the Queen’s Hall Box Office: tel: 298-9089 or 376-5699 •

Along with celebrating the magic and excitement of Christmas in music and song, the concert also marks the choir’s ongoing 60th anniversary celebrations which kicked off in July. Over the past 60 years, “Christmas with the Marionettes” has come to be regarded as one of the award-winning choir’s most cherished events that remains highly anticipated by their loyal fans and supporters. Since being established in 1995, the Marionettes Youth Chorale has also taken to the stage alongside the adult choir, much to the delight of patrons—some of whom have declared the concert a “must-attend” whenever they return to T&T for the holidays.

Under the artistic direction of the incomparable Gretta Taylor, patrons can expect to be entertained with spirituals, gospel, classical, musical theatre, soca, calypso, parang along with seasonal favourites. As the very first choir in T&T to perform live in concert with an accompanying steelband, the Marionettes has included Desmond Waithe’s scintillating choral arrangement of Len Boogsie Sharpe’s “Pan Rising” in this year’s repertoire. It’s the choir’s way of remembering the late Denyse Plummer—a former Calypso Monarch—who recorded the calypso, while honouring Sharpe who recently celebrated his 70th birthday.

As anticipated, some of Marionettes’ top tier soloists will be gearing up to thrill their audiences as they have successfully done at past events. Gracing the stage will be Hermina Charles, Jacqueline Johnson, Errol James, Jacqueline Smith, Nigel Floyd and many more.

This year’s production will vividly explore the theme of “Light” as a pathway towards seeking joy and renewal during this season that commemorates the birth of the Christ child with its heightened feelings of good vibes and generosity.

Reflecting on the motif, Gretta Taylor connected the work that Marionettes had accomplished over an enviable six-decade period, as a labour of love to illuminate hearts and minds—if only for a moment. Says Taylor:

The fact that in general the public respects the group; that—as disconcerting as it could be— there’s the saying ‘Christmas begins with the Marionettes’; that the members are committed and enjoy what they do; that after every show, people take the time to call or write to say what our concerts mean to them, and the difference it makes to their lives, albeit temporarily. Parents of rebellious children take the trouble to let us know how making music with the group has steadied them and helped them to grow. So maybe somewhere, somehow, we are doing something right.

Collaborative work remains one of the hallmarks of excellent productions. This fact has not escaped Taylor and her team which displayed admirable foresight last year in establishing a young Musicians Collective, coordinated by Assistant Musical Director and longstanding choir member, Dr Roger Henry. The upcoming December shows will feature, once again, the conducting talents of notable musicians Caryll Warner and Joshua Joseph. Last Christmas the Marionettes premiered the commendable work of yet another member of the Collective—vocalist and arranger Khadija Huggins.

Dr Henry shared some of what he most enjoys in preparing for the group’s anticipated Christmas series:

I always look forward to the ‘Marionettes moment’ — that thing that happens every once in a while, always in a rehearsal, often in preparation for the Christmas show, where things just seem to click … That always reminds me of how special a choir community is—it’s more than just people who sing shows, but people working to intertwine their lives and their beings in this musical project. It’s never an individual feeling—it’s really the ‘us’ of it.

To demonstrate even further the group’s commitment to embracing the skills and contributions of the younger generation, Aiesha Clement has competently led the orchestra for several years since her father’s passing, while Kern Sumerville’s commissioned arrangement of Olatunji Yearwood’s “Engine Room” will be reprised for the Christmas shows.

As the group prepares for this year’s concert series, still ecstatic over its diamond jubilee status, Marionettes Assistant Artistic Director Caroline Taylor sums up the prevailing feeling:

It’s an exciting time for us at the moment, because we’re both looking back and looking forward. So, we’re truly blessed with these rich relationships, and several generations of musical talent and leadership … We couldn’t be more grateful for that.

“Christmas with the Marionettes”, sponsored by TTT and Flow, takes place Friday 1st — Sunday 3rd December. Showtime 7pm except on Sunday which is 5pm. Tickets cost $200 open, $250 reserved and $300 premium reserved, and are available from Marionettes members and online at the Marionettes website (until November 25th), and at the Queen’s Hall Box Office from mid-November through showtime (tel: 298-9089 or 376-5699 • NB: From Sunday 26th November, tickets should be purchased directly from the Queen’s Hall.

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