For as long as she can remember, Gretta Taylor has had a love
affair with music. Her memories go as far back as being taken
to concerts by her parents and throwing tantrums when the
curtains came down because she didnt want to leave all
the music behind.
After being introduced to the piano, she would practise
for hours and hours, not because I had to, but because
I enjoyed it.
In 1963, the Marionettes Chorale was formed by two music
teachers from St Josephs Convent, Port-of-Spain: Jocelyn
Pierre and June Thorne.
An ad was placed in the newspapers inviting singers to attend
an audition at Pierres home on Warner Street in Newtown.
The turnout was so tremendous that the crowd spilled out
of the house and onto the pavement.
In spite of the initial rush, Taylor managed to secure a
spot in the choir. During our interview last week, however,
the decorated conductor of the award-winning Marionettes
was not shy about admitting that it was a turn of events
she never saw in her cards.
wasnt supposed to be a singer, she said seriously.
I always admired everybody else who could sing and
people who sang in choirs. I just assumed that I didnt
have the goods and the talent.
didnt pine over it, I just accepted the facts for
what they were. It didnt make me stop loving choral
The facts being as they were about her singing ability,
Taylor and her friend Susan Dore began to cause quite a
stir at the T&T Music Festival with Taylors light
fingers on the piano drawing attention.
When Thorne (who wanted to spend more time raising her family)
and then Pierre (who became ill and later received a four-year
scholarship from the Government to study in Montreal) departed
from the Marionettes, there arose a vacancy for the position
of choir master/ conductor.
The position was offered to both Taylor and Dore but both
they wouldnt accept my answer, she laughed.
I was also teaching languages at Convent and Jocelyn
Pierre had also left a vacancy with the choir there and
the principal approached me to attempt to continue to deal
with the choir, Taylor said.
never imagined that I would be here up to now, but it was
something I said I would try... and here I am, 31 years
later. So I have accepted that there really must be some
kind of master plan.
Since 1974, Taylor has produced and directed several full-length
productions with the Marionettes, each running for up to
six nights with full-scale costumes, dance and sets, as
well as many other concert appearances and four overseas
The choir has established a reputation for the highest musical
standards and a wide repertoire, ranging from the most challenging
classical and contemporary choral works to musical theatre,
spirituals, folksongs, carols, calypso and parang.
biggest challenge for me when I first started was having
come out of the choir ranks. I had to now turn and face
them and they had to respect me, she said.
lot of them were older than I was and they had their loyalties
to Jocelyn, as did I. It was not easy for me, for example,
to correct them. But I grew in the role.
And as she grew in the role, Taylor found that her plans
to raise the standard of music the choir was performing,
involved taking chances. She trained the ear of the listening
public to accept that a performance from the Marionettes
would always bring them something different.
The Marionettes Youth Chorale was launched in June 1995,
to groom young singers to join the senior Marionettes and
to provide a serious musical outlet for young singers and
This new entity brought with it new challenges.
big problem is commitment. The younger generation tends
to go wherever the action is. I am not judging whether it
is right or wrong but it does make planning very difficult
when you are not sure who is going to turn up at rehearsals,
of course, there is a stigma attached to boys singing, which
unfortunately is a big factor in a developing country but
not in developed countries. So, it is more difficult to
attract the boys. Sometimes they are desperate to sing but
they dont because they are afraid of what their peers,
and sometimes their parents, would say.
as far as I am concerned, it is soul food, so it makes you
a more rounded and a more sensitive person.
are some, though, who just dont care about what anybody
has to say and I thank God for that.
Theme for the Marionettes Chorales Christmas concert
this year, which is also a celebration of the Youth Chorales
10th anniversary, is Joyful Song. Performances take place
at Queens Hall, St Anns from December 811.