Astra Da Costa was a magnificent figure in Trinidad & Tobago’s cultural, corporate and philanthropic landscape, who passed away 12 years ago this month. She was also a long and dear friend to the Marionettes — a former member, and our publicist, and resident voiceover artist for many, many years. Her passing on the evening of 15th October, 2009 still seems far too soon, with far too many projects still at hand for an always-busy, always-dreaming Astra.
Astra Da Costa speaks of the Marionettes as one would speak of a dear friend or loved one. This is no coincidence, since the 22 years of advertising work that she has done for the choir can only be described as a labour of love.
Astra’s relationship with the Marionettes began in 1969, when she joined the choir as an alto. She has many fond memories of performing under Jocelyn Pierre and June Williams-Thorne. She recalls the spirit of community and camaraderie within the choir, calling it “an NGO that looked after its own.”
In the 1970s, the demands of her work called her away from the choir. It was only in 1987 that she returned, this time in a new role, organising the choir’s marketing and advertising.
Before Astra came along, the Marionettes were “singing along happily, getting whatever media coverage [they] could get, begging for advertising when necessary,” says choir secretary Joanne Mendes. Astra changed all that.
The first big move she and AMPLE made was to design a Marionettes logo. The hand-drawn design showed the choir’s name arranged as a choir performing. The logo has undergone many changes since then, but this too is thanks to Astra’s insistence that the choir’s image continuously change to fit the era. The choir to her is not a static object, but a growing organism. She consistently makes use of all available techniques in imaging and production for advertisements, tickets, flyers and programmes.
Astra and AMPLE were involved in the first recorded broadcasts of Marionettes performances, which she herself presented for several years. This project was important in spreading the choir’s music to a wider audience.
And it was when Da Costa came on board that the choir’s executive was able to meet with their sponsor at the time, Amoco (bpTT’s predecessor), and reinvent the marketing of the choir using her vast PR experience, while helping Amoco to better understand how it could benefit from supporting the choir.
Just how Astra managed to give so much of her time to the Marionettes remains something of a mystery. In addition to a heavy workload at AMPLE, she chairs the board of management at Queen’s Hall, is heavily involved with the Rotary Club, and is a part of the board of management for the soon-to-be-completed Centre for the Performing Arts.
Though Astra is no longer responsible for the Marionettes’ press and advertising, her performing arts navel string seems to be buried in the choir. She is as excited as ever as she watches the choir still reinventing itself as we move further into the 21st century.
At this anniversary performance, the choir extends its heartfelt thanks to Astra Da Costa for her tireless work on its behalf, and looks forward to a continuing relationship with her for many years to come.
Continue to rest in peace and power, dear Astra.