After 45 years at the forefront of Trinidad & Tobago’s cultural scene, the Marionettes Chorale are launching their official anniversary celebrations with next month’s Holiday Moods.
In that 45 years, the Marionettes have won national and international acclaim and recognition – an unbeaten championship record in the Trinidad & Tobago Music Festival; the Hummingbird Medal Gold (1987); the keys to Port of Spain (1992); the Trinidad & Tobago Icon (History Makers) Award for distinguished service to Trinidad & Tobago (2002); and prizes at some of the world’s most prestigious choral festivals on tours to Europe, North America, and throughout the Caribbean.
Along the way, they have been stalwart cultural ambassadors overseas. They have performed local and regional music for internationally acclaimed personalities like Colin Powell and Lord Browne, receiving standing ovations from capacity audiences at prestigious international venues like London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, York’s Assembly Rooms, and the Hall of the Americas in Washington, DC.
But like every community arts group, the Marionettes had to struggle for rehearsal space, performance space, and for funding in those early years. It was not until the turbulent post-coup years of the early 1970s that the Marionettes, with the help of Canon Winston Joseph, found a rehearsal home at All Saints Anglican Church, and formed an indelible partnership with bpTT (formerly Amoco). BPTT has been the group’s sole sponsor since 1972.
Indeed, bpTT’s sponsorship over the last 37 years has been invaluable to the group’s stability and consistent work in the community. It has enabled the Marionettes to produce at least two first-class, sold-out productions at Queen’s Hall each year while keeping ticket prices affordable; release six full-length music albums; provide scholarships for talented young singers; raise funds for various schools and organisations nationwide; and run a dynamic Youth Chorale brimming with talented young singers, dancers, actors and musicians from over 30 schools across the country.
“Without that support,” says group secretary and founder member Joanne Mendes, “the challenge of sustaining the choirs over a long period would have been a hundred times harder. This has been a model of thoughtful, well-targeted cultural support by a major corporation.”
In the last few years, the Marionettes have moved to expand the scope of their community programmes. The first step was formally being incorporated as a nonprofit, and receiving the deed to a plot of land in Port of Spain. During their anniversary year, they hope to construct a multi-arts performance and rehearsal space which groups from throughout the country will be able to use in developing and showcasing their work. The group is also looking to partner with arts-in-education organisations to introduce a programme of workshops and master classes in the performing arts.
In the mean time, the Marionettes are working hard on next month’s highly anticipated Holiday Moods, and the group is once again teaming up with bpTT to present two special performances. The opening night gala on December 4 is in aid of the Cancer Society of Trinidad & Tobago, complementing a free matinee performance on December 6 for senior citizens, children and the disabled from various institutions across the island. Sponsors bpTT will provide transportation and holiday gift bags for these specially invited guests. Indeed, these are the performances to which the Marionettes most look forward.
Tickets for Holiday Moods go on sale from November 10 at the Queen’s Hall Box Office (open 12pm–6pm); online at www.CaribbeanBoxOffice.net; and from members of the group.