The Marionettes Chorale was formed in 1963 by Jocelyn Pierre and June Williams-Thorne to compete in the 1964 Music Festival. The Chorale competed intermittently in the biennial festivals until 1980. On each occasion it was adjudged the Most Outstanding Choir. Included among its many trophies was the prestigious May Johnstone Commemorative Trophy for the Most Outstanding Performer of the Festival.
After 1980, the choir was busy gaining respect on the international scene. Competing against the big names like Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, England, Ireland, Wales, Poland, Romania, the Philippines, the United States and Cuba, the Marionettes won four major prizes from the three International Choral Festivals in which they participated, in Llangollen, Wales (1981), Cork, Ireland (1984) and Middlesbrough, England (1992). In the process, such distinguished musical figures as John Rutter, Philip Ledger, Andrew Carter and Gwyn Arch, and Dr. John Havelock-Nelson were high in their praises of the Chorale’s performances.
In addition to Britain, the Chorale has toured extensively in the West Indies (Curaçao, Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbados, Jamaica and Costa Rica) and in North America (New York, Toronto, Montreal, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington DC). It has received 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.
The Marionettes Chorale regularly raises funds for charity. It has performed for internationally acclaimed personalities such as Lord Browne and Colin Powell, and has entertained international delegates from the OAS and the Commonwealth, Caricom Heads of Government, and Commonwealth magistrates. It has led the congregation at major local events such as City Day interfaith services, the opening of the Law Courts, and the National Awards ceremony at President’s House.
Since 1974, the Marionettes has been led by Artistic Director and conductor Gretta Taylor. Since 2011-12, she has been supported by Assistant Musical Director Dr. Roger Henry; Assistant Artistic Director Caroline Taylor; Property Fund Director Susan Dore; and a committee headed by founder-member and Production Manager Joanne Mendes and Assistant Production Manager Jacqueline Smith. In the last few years, its organising committee has grown to include three generations of Marionettes, many of whom are being groomed for leadership positions as part of the Marionettes’ succession planning.
In 1987, the 25th anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago’s independence, the Chorale was awarded the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) for its outstanding contribution to music. Its director, Gretta Taylor, was honoured with a similar award in 1990. The Chorale received the keys to the city of Port of Spain in 1992.
Over the years, many children’s and school choirs have guested at Marionettes concerts. In 1995, the Youth Chorale was formed to give young performers ages 12–26 a serious musical outlet and environment. Featuring up to 90 members from over 30 schools nationwide, they now are joined by the Children’s Choir, formed in 2012. These 50-odd talented youngsters – among them Music Festival, Panorama and Junior Calypso Monarch winners – now include the Marionettes’ youngest ever member at just six precocious years old. These singers, dancers, actors, choreographers and instrumentalists also have been outstanding exam performers, some going on to win national and international scholarships like the prestigious Rhodes, Commonwealth and Fulbright awards. The Youth Chorale and Children’s Choir are vital social tool, and a wonderful setting in which young people can grow and explore their talents while making new friends and finding new mentors.
The Marionettes’ repertoire spans a wide range of musical styles, from 16th-century Gabrielli to 20th-century Messiaen, as well as opera, spirituals, Caribbean and international folk songs, and calypso. It has always championed Trinidad and Tobago’s music, which it has performed extensively on overseas tours. The Marionettes were one of the first to blend voices with steel in the 1960s, and have been accompanied by many top steel orchestras — Pan Am North Stars, Trinidad All Stars, Renegades, Renegades Youth Orchestra, Desperadoes and Skiffle Bunch.
The Chorale has had the honour of having work dedicated to it by composers including the late Dr. Havelock Nelson, Stewart Hylton Edwards and Alma Pierre.
The Marionettes’ classical repertoire includes Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” and “Magnificat”, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” (Ninth Symphony), Brahms’ “Liebeslieder Waltzes” and “Gypsy Songs”, Haydn’s “Mass in D Minor” (Nelson Mass) and “Te Deum”, Handel’s “Messiah”, Mozart’s “Solemn Vespers” and “Coronation Mass”, A. Gabrielli’s “Magnificat” for 3 choirs, G. Gabrielli’s “Magnificat” for 2 choirs, Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” and “Missa Brevis”, Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”, Fauré’s “Requiem”, Poulenc’s “Gloria”, Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols”, Vaughan Williams’s “Five Mystical Songs”, Fanshawe’s “African Sanctus” (excerpts), Bizet’s “Carmen”.
In addition to a full-length production of "Carmen" (2011) and "Les Misérables" (2014-15), the Marionettes has provided the chorus for several opera productions, including Mozart’s “Magic Flute” and “Marriage of Figaro”, and have staged substantial concert segments of Broadway musicals, operas and operettas such as “West Side Story”, “Porgy and Bess”, “Les Miserables”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, "Aida", "Hairspray", Ragtime", and others.