Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 12th 2015 Contents July 12, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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By Roslyn Carrington
Photo by Butch Allan Limchoy
TO HEAR HER TELL IT, Gretta Taylor's long and laudable
tenure as Musical Director of the Marionettes was a
Though many people who have made it to the pinnacle
of their field often reflect on yearning for their art from
an early age, she expressed a mild interest in song back
then, and song, in turn, expressed just a mild interest in
her. As a girl she had tried out for a few choirs --- but was
turned down. "My sister was accepted. She could actu-
ally sing. Testing my voice for the St Joseph's Convent
choir was compulsory. Left to me I wasn't going any-
where near Sr. Helen, the terror(ist) who was in charge."
Things heated up for her at the University of Toronto,
though, when she made it not only to their choir, but also
to a pared-down version, comprising the choir's very
best, who were invited to compete at the international
level. "We represented Canada. Even then, it certainly
wasn't in my consciousness that I would be leading any
choir. But in retrospect there were a lot of seeds being
On her return to T&T, she joined the early Marionettes,
then led by Jocelyn Pierre. "She had been one of my
piano teachers in school, and encouraged me to join."
When Pierre suffered a stroke at an early age, the choir
found itself in need. "The committee met and decided
the choir had to go on. They informed me that they had
chosen me in absentia, along with Susan Dore, my for-
mer piano duet partner from Music Festival, to pick up
At the time, she had begun teaching languages at
St Joseph's, as well as leading their three choirs, already
quite a handful. "But when you're young and naive, you
decide you'll give it a try."
She had beginner's luck: the first time she took the SJC
senior choir into Music Festival, it won three prizes, in-
cluding the Prime Minister's Trophy for the Most Out-
standing Junior Choir. She sees it as a kind of OJT. "I had
to start from the beginning and learn. There were things
I didn't know, but I remembered the training I observed
when I was in the University of Toronto choir. I joined the
American Choral Directors' Association; I learned a lot. I
grew into the role." By attending conferences and in-
creasing her training, Taylor built up her self-confidence.
"I didn't feel as much of a fraud as I did at the beginning."
And the Marionettes grew alongside her. The group has
taken on projects that would daunt even large profes-
sional organisations. Among their most notable produc-
tions is the recent Les Misérables. "We were brave.
People believed we could never do it how they saw it
done. But look at the response we had!"
Her daughter, Caroline Taylor (featured on the cover of
WOW on September 21, 2014), was the dramatic direc-
tor of Les Mis. A delicate dance between mother and
daughter: "She was the one who insisted that we do it.
She had a way of managing people: a lot of directors
demonstrate how they want you to express an emotion,
but Caroline believed it should come from inside. They
responded to her in a very positive way."
One Marionettes offering that put its fair share of grey
hairs on her head was a 2012 production of The Armed
Man, a multimedia production that included snatches of
video, images of war, flashing across the backdrop. "You
had to make sure you reached a certain spot in the ora-
tory when a certain part of the film came on. One night
the film stuck...." She laughs at the memory.
At another juncture, the production involved the Muslim
call to prayer, performed live. One night it went over
time. "The images were flashing by... but I couldn't tell
him to hush!" It took all of her skills as a director to speed
up the orchestra to catch up.
During a recital of the African Sanctus, which is accom-
panied by recorded music, her headphones failed. "I could-
n't hear a thing! But it was the old Queen's Hall, with the
wooden floors. I had to feel the vibration in the floor."
And though the Marionettes have done exceptionally well
in competitions, especially the Music Festival, Taylor hates
competing. "It brings out the best and worst in people."
Carmen; Bach, Beethoven, Brahms; the Marionettes have
tackled them all, and Taylor is left tired but fulfilled. "They
wear me out, but we overcome the hurdles. We are
And after 40 years of these blessings, Taylor is looking to
pass the conductor's baton. Her choice is Dr. Roger Henry,
who is in charge of the music programme at UTT, who
has been her assistant for two years. He is bracing to take
on the challenge. "He's the obvious choice."
How will she feel when she releases the reins for good?
She laughs, and shrugs off the question. "I'll only know
when I hand over!"
"Our productions wear me
out, but we overcome the
hurdles. We are blessed."
The Marionettes' Youth Chorale's 20th
anniversary concert, SHOWTIME III, is on
at the Queen's Hall at 5:00 pm this
evening, Sunday 12th. Tickets are $100
(children under 18); $150 (seniors and uni-
versity students); and $200 (adults), and
available from the Queen's Hall Box Office
(tel: 624-1284, open 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
daily), or the Marionettes at 790-1751
(9:00 am to 6:00 pm).
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