Fifty years ago the first members of the BP Marionettes Chorale–the first choir to be formed in a newly independent Trinidad & Tobago–came together to begin a journey to becoming one of the nation's most treasured cultural organisations.
Next month, they launch their year-long 50th anniversary celebrations with Landmarks, which will run from July 12 to 14 at the Queen's Hall.
In 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.
A release from the Chorale said over the following two decades, they set their sights on measuring up against the best choirs in the world and exposing international audiences to Caribbean music, winning four major prizes from the three UK international choral festivals in which they participated.
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, and the Hall of the Americas in Washington DC.
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 Orff's Carmina Burana; Fanshawe's African Sanctus; V. Williams' Five Mystical Songs; Britten's Ceremony of Carols; Poulenc's Gloria; Bernstein's Missa Brevis and Chichester Psalms; and Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace), including the accompanying film.
According to the release, the Marionettes' repertoire extends far beyond Western classical, and includes opera, spirituals, Broadway, Caribbean and international folk songs, and of course T&T's calypso. The Marionettes' commitment to their national art forms includes the commissioning of choral arrangements of Caribbean and national folk songs, calypso and other music, to perform both at home and overseas.
With Landmarks, 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; and classic arrangements of regional favourites. Performing will be some of the group's best-loved soloists, as well as the Marionettes Youth Chorale (founded in 1995), and Children's Choir (founded just last year), under the batons of musical director Gretta Taylor and new assistant musical director Dr Roger Henry.
Driving the event is a dynamic multi-generational organising committee, which augurs well for the group's future. The series also marks the launch of a companion double-CD of the same name, and a full year of planned anniversary events, including performances, workshops, exhibitions, and documentary features.
Landmarks runs July 12, 13 and 14 at the Queen's Hall, with tickets going on sale at the Queen's Hall (624-1284) from June 24, 12�6pm Monday through Friday.
Seats are $150 (open) and $200 (reserved). Tickets may also be booked through members of the chorale, and directly from the Marionettes at email@example.com or 790-1751.
To stay in touch with the Marionettes and their 50th anniversary celebrations, please visit their web site at http://www.marionetteschorale.com and their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/marionetteschorale.