A Marionettes concert diary

Originally assigned for and published in the Trinidad Express Newspaper in 2001


Carnival is over. Marionettes Chorale practices begin again. The holy Trinity (conductor Gretta Taylor, secretary Joanne Mendes and Assistant Musical Director Susan Dore) and the organising committee have been talking about a gospel, folk and spiritual CD to showcase local compositions and arrangements. Sounds interesting. We may even make a concert out of it… it’s the only way to get members to come out regularly anyway!


How can we tie folk gospel and spiritual into one concert? Somehow the picong and satire of calypso doesn’t seem to fit with the seriousness of the spiritual and gospel. Would people come to a concert like that? Will people buy a Marionettes CD with folk on it, when some supporters don’t even like us singing folk? But other people are saying we do spirituals and gospel so well that we need to devote a whole concert to it. And even if that is so, with our usual home at Queen’s Hall closed for renovations, where oh where should we put it on?


Arranger of the folk and calypso, Desmond Waithe (who also doubles as soloist for most of the kaiso) is going away in June, so the recording has to take place by then. At last, though, and angle. A triangle at that. Mrs. Taylor suggests that we trace the impact of African music on musical forms which developed in slave populations in the New World. We’ll look at music from everywhere the slave traders landed – North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.


We still don’t know exactly when the concert will be. June, July? This is a big fundraising year for us, so the concert shouldn’t be too close to any such event. We have a brunch slated for late May, so the concert needs to be after that some time.

Music, costumes, trophies and plaques have been piling up in the houses of a handful of members for 37 years. It’s time to find somewhere we can store and showcase all of our belongings, and hopefully have our own rehearsal space as well. All Saints Church has been more than generous to us up to now. First big fundraiser is that brunch.

At first everyone in the choir didn’t believe for a second that we could sell 500 tickets at $100 each – for a brunch! Members said they couldn’t even buy a ticket themselves, let alone try and get friends and family to patronise. A dinner maybe? No. Ms. Mendes isn’t impressed. She and Judy Gonsalves get together and hijack over 500 people for the brunch – and sell all the tickets for no less than $175 a piece! Relator and Professor Ken Philmore headline the entertainment – including a cameo by Mrs. Taylor herself singing her signature tune: “Mama Look a Boo-boo”, the classical Lord Melody. The brunch is a huge success. Take that, all ye nay-sayers! Ms Mendes is most pleased.


It’s time to cut the CD. Final word is that it’ll be one CD of folk, and another of spirituals and gospel, including some pre-recorded stuff. In addition to the studio session, the concert will be recorded. Dates for the concert are finally set, as is a venue. July 6th, 7th and 8th at CIC (St. Mary’s) Hall on Pembroke Street. We’re still in fundraising, so tickets are priced at $50, and show times slated for 8:15pm on Friday and Saturday, and 6:15pm on the Sunday. We’re in to the home stretch.


It’s crunch time! At the end of June, just two or three weeks before the concert, members are showing up 45 minutes late for practice. Mrs. Taylor and Ms. Mendes are frustrated and anxious. It’s time for an ultimatum. Shape up, or ship out. Come on time, or leave at midnight. After two good buff, people start coming more punctually. Trini time shifts to Daylight Savings Time?

Lots of fine-tuning for the soloists – and there are a lot of soloists this year. Lots of new faces, especially in the Youth Chorale. It seems weird for me not to be singing with them, since I was one of their original members. But I guess, at 19, I’m now too old! Kill me dead!

It’s still strange to be rehearsing in St. Mary’s Hall. We all miss Queen’s Hall. Backstage space is limited. Senior Marionettes are 80 strong as is, let alone when the Youth Chorale comes to the dress rehearsal with their 80 plus members.

Movement and pitch are the orders of the day. Marionettes has never been a choir of movers, with more emphasis always being placed on the choral art, but we’ll manage. After months of buffing, our pitch on the a cappella numbers is really good. No wonder we’re the only choir to have won international choral awards! Big up!

Just a few tickets left now. Anyone who hasn’t seen the ads yet will still be able to come on the night and buy tickets at the door, though. I think people should like this concert. It’s powerful. It’s lively. It’s intense. It’s familiar. I think we’re ready. Are you?


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