ArtFul Living

With Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky

Healthy Planet Arts Editor


I’ll Never Say ‘Never’ Again!


I never cover animal events. I never cover recorded music. And I’ll never say “never” again.

You’ve seen the billboards all over town announcing Cavalia. A beautiful white horse, the epitome of strength and grace. The design simplicity of the billboard says “art.”

Described as a “magical encounter between human and horse,” Cavalia trots into St. Louis for its March 21-April 1 run. Normand Latourelle, one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soleil, created a lavish, multimedia production with 38 international riders, aerialists, acrobats, dancers and musicians, plus 45 horses. According to Latourelle, “Cavalia celebrates the relationship between humans and horses, virtually reinventing the equestrian arts.

“We have been looking forward to bringing Cavalia to St. Louis for some time,” he said. “Cavalia has travelled across North America and Europe for nine years, and we are glad to have now found (a place) for our unique show in the heart of America.” Headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Cavalia blends dance, music and strength with grace to charm audiences. The tone is of mutual respect, kindness, patience and trust between the human and animal performers. Too grand for any ordinary venue, Cavalia performs under a signature white Big Top tent, at the corner of South 7th and Cerre Street, just across from Busch Stadium. Visit www.cavalia.net or call 1-866-999-8111 for ticket info.

Sony Masterworks recently contacted me to discuss the debut album of The Monks of the Desert, entitled “Blessings, Peace and Harmony.” As I said, I don’t usually cover recorded music in this column but, as I heard more about this group, I became intrigued.

The Monks of the Desert, ranging in age from 20-something to 93 years of age, spend their days in the canyons of New Mexico, praying for peace, working and studying, mostly in complete silence. Being completely self-sufficient, they are very creative in finding ways to sustain their peace-filled lives.

The abbey blends beautifully into the remote desert landscape (Frank Lloyd Wright would approve!). The building itself has been recognized for its “green” construction. Solar panels generate all the power needed to keep these gentle men “off the grid” in a practical manner. While living in an environmentally-conscious abbey, the monks also operate on onsite retreat hotel for guests wishing to truly get away from it all, for a few days or up to a month. But the monks understand that man does not live by bread alone—they also produce Monk’s Ale (don’t ya just love ‘em!). Although these monks blend hops and barley like no one else, it is the blending of their voices that is truly ARTful.

Recent research by Dr. Alan Watkins, senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College in London, has demonstrated that “the regular breathing and musical structure of chanting has a significant and positive physiological impact.”  Abbot Philip Lawrence, who leads The Monastery of Christ in the Desert, provided further explanation.  “This genre of music calms the spirit and helps us live in peace with our world, and with one another,” he said. “Chanting has some strange effect on the brain waves according to various studies, positively affecting the mentality and serenity of the audience.”

While this may not exactly be music you’ll hum along with, it definitely is peaceful. Sample it at http://youtu.be/U5YY684ZXDE  and you may want to add “Blessings, Peace and Harmony” to your musical collection.

If peppier music is more to your liking, get a cup of coffee any Sunday at Rue Lafayette in Lafayette Square.  This is not your ordinary coffee shop: the place is tiny, décor is distinctly “old Paris”—it’s simply charming. At 11 a.m. every Sunday, Miss Jubilee will knock your socks off. A café guitarist, snare drummer, bass player and the most delightful singer you’ll ever find (who’s also a barista) keep the place hopping with hot jazz and swing from the 1920’s-50’s. I’m sorry to spread the word about this, because now Rue Lafayette will be even more crowded!

There’s nothing like an Irish tune to put a spring in your step. And “everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!” To help you celebrate March 17 in emerald-green style, The Sheldon presents “Cherish the Ladies” on March 9, an all-female group performing traditional music o’the sod. Traditional dancing, instrumental and vocal music fill the concert hall the next day when St. Louis Irish Arts presents an 11 a.m. performance. For details or tickets to either or both of these events, visit www.thesheldon.org.

Happy 35th birthday to MADCO, St. Louis’ innovative dance company. Celebrate at the Touhill on March 29-30; visit www.madcodance.org for details.