Talk of the Towns: 2.21.24

downtown | “Watch out for flying children!” is the clever tagline for Circus Harmony, the ‘social circus’ based at the City Museum downtown. Alumni are performing at renowned outfits worldwide, including Cirque du Soleil. One is not doing his flips inside a traditional round circus ring anymore, but instead competes as a pro wrestler in one that has four corners, of course, until some nefarious fiend tries to pick him up and throw him out of it—Scrypts, a WWE wrestler, even has his own action figure. Former student Claire now walks the high wire with husband Alex as one of the legendary Flying Wallendas. But perhaps the alumna with a job even more challenging than that of a human cannonball, one of her former acts at Circus Harmony, is Elliana Grace: Now general manager of the troupe, Grace is helping the next generation reach for the stars. Online, Circus Harmony has released a short video, Finding Your Voice, illustrating how members discover their strengths and community at Circus Harmony, which has just begun its spring classes at City Museum; summer-camp schedules will be posted online soon. Drop-in classes for aspiring jugglers and unicyclists are ongoing, and free classes for youngsters and teens are available at several city recreation centers. For detailed information, visit

The 19th-century Dickensian image of a newborn baby left with a blanket and bottle in a straw basket has almost become a meme, but unfortunately, it’s still accurate. Some women who have just given birth realize they won’t have the financial wherewithal to support an infant. What to do? There is a risk- and blame-free alternative gaining in popularity nationwide, and a new mother recently took advantage of it at a so-called Safe Haven installed in August at a Mehlville firehouse. On Feb. 8, a newborn baby girl appeared in the station’s Baby Box, which is available only at select fire stations, police stations and hospitals. Babies left in a Baby Box are available for adoption in a month or so, following a medical exam and thorough check of missing-children cases. The little girl was the first in Missouri to be left behind in this fashion. Baby Boxes are designed with an alarm both to alert qualified personnel inside that there is a treasure to be retrieved from the climate-controlled enclosure (equipped with a nursery bed and blanket, of course) and to allow the mother time to walk away undetected. Monica Kelsey, Safe Haven CEO, is paying it forward in a big way—the former firefighter discovered as an adult that she, too, had been abandoned at birth in 1973. Since she founded Safe Haven in 2016, there have been 42 babies left anonymously in the boxes nationwide, and another 147 have been safely handed off to a caregiver on site.

world wide technology raceway
In my opinion—not quite humble, yet widely publicized—the Mississippi River shouldn’t divide the metro any more than Interstate 270 should separate north, west or south county from civilization in the StL at large. Yep, we’re all pretty hidebound up in here. (Although we’re not going to get all tangled up in the Interstate 64 vs. Highway ‘Farty’ argument. Nobody can win that one.) So, regardless of where you went to high school, here’s a fact you may not cotton to, but is geographically sound: From downtown, you can get to the World Wide Technology (WWT) raceway in Madison, Illinois, faster than you could to any venue in Chesterfield, which is way out west just shy of K.C.—relatively speaking. You won’t even have to break any traffic laws, as most drivers who whiz past me are wont to do. So, there’s a great reason to put June 1 and 2 on your calendar: It’s the third annual Confluence Festival, where you’ll get to hear performances from the likes of rapper Ludacris, country-music chart-topper Riley Green. Gretchen Wilson of Pocahontas, Illinois, famous for her 2004 hit “Redneck Woman,” is on the bill with Big & Rich. And Waino! That’s right, retired Redbirds hurler Adam Wainwright, who’s parlayed his 200 career wins into a job as an MLB announcer, has a second side gig as a country singer. His single “Time To Fly,” a sweet tribute to his baseball career, is a darn good acoustic ballad in and of itself. More power to him, as well as to the muscular machines that will be roaring all hell-bent for nothin’ around the track for the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300. Now, if you’re a NASCAR fan but not much into music—say what?!—you can purchase tickets just for the race, and vice-versa.

notable neighbors
The concert coming up April 6 at Grandel Theater in Grand Center is called Harmony in Music. Its title just as well could have been Melody or Rhythm in Music, since all three are essential elements of the art form. Vocalist Seema Kasthuri seems as intent on making several distinct genres work in harmony during the performance. Traditional classical Indian compositions will fill the hall, often blended with folk, pop and rap. Yes, even rap. The beautiful song “Janivara – Higher Power” is infused with a spiritually leaning rap interlude by Zach Harrison of Columbia, Missouri:

Maybe my hope is too low to think about a higher power
Too busy checking my social analytics by the hour
And how are we to be at ease with looking at ourselves honestly
When all I see in my feed are people fake livin’ perfectly …

My nine to fiver doesn’t mean I don’t want to dream.
“There’s a thread that runs through, connecting us all,” says Kasthuri. “We should learn that we all really have the same goal.” The group, consisting of about six people, will largely perform Carnatic music, an Indian classical style, blending it with new age and American jazz. The concert will bring together the best of many worlds, touching on original scores and incorporating fusion. The audience stands to enjoy upbeat selections from The Beatles catalog, the smooth song stylings of Nora Jones, even a rendition of the Irish “Road to Tipperary”—with a comical hillbilly twist, no less—along with Bollywood’s infectious tunes. Kasthuri has been a practitioner of the Carnatic style for decades and will present several of her original compositions. One must note, quite frankly, that she was less than wildly enthusiastic about the Fab Four. “I really like the lyrics,” she acknowledges. “The music is very simple.” Even after hearing her mellifluous vocals coupled with the adept players’ precise instrumentation, someone who’d first experienced the trendsetting British pop group on The Ed Sullivan Show, 60 years ago this month, may remain to be convinced. Joining Kasthuri will be national touring and recording artist Todd Mosby—a guitarist who will fuse jazz with North Indian Hindustani music, which he studied for more than 10 years under the legendary Imrath Khan, who actually built one of Mosby’s unique guitars. She and Mosby plan to showcase what traditional music can offer when presented with a jazz twist. The creative team includes rhythm expert, percussionist extraordinaire, dancer and metro dance instructor Prasanna Kasthuri (Seema’s husband), drummer Steve Davis and St. Louis-based jazz bassist Ben Coan. Listeners can expect the artists to improvise on traditional Indian ragas while exploring complicated rhythmic patterns. “There will be a lot of rhythm,” exclaims Prasanna, an accomplished drummer who was tired the afternoon we visited, but from footwork, not stick work—having taught a dance class that morning at the Kasthuri home and soon to leave for another. The production starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available through Metrotix. More information is available at The local nonprofit’s mission is to enrich cultural diversity and artistic excellence in Missouri and nationwide by preserving and propagating Indian performing arts through teaching, training and performance.

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