An original musical production by flugelhornist and composer Dmitri Matheny, The SnowCat is the heartwarming tale of a little girl's search for her wandering white cat on a chilly afternoon.
Each year, Dmitri and friends bring The SnowCat to life in a popular series of performances for families, combining singing, storytelling, live music, and visual art.
"I was born on Christmas Day, and I love the traditional songs and stories of the holiday season," Matheny said. "The SnowCat, however, is our own creation."
The SnowCat is based on the ancient Asian parable of The Oxherder, in which a herdboy's quest to find his missing ox is likened to an individual's journey through life. With origins in India, the parable became popular in medieval Japan and was depicted on 13th century handscrolls as the "Ten Oxherding Songs" or "Ten Oxherding Pictures." The scrolls traditionally divide the hero's journey into ten stages each illustrated by a circularly framed image and a simple verse. Rendered in the graphic style of Japanese narrative illustration, the story is as simple as a modern day comic or coloring book, yet offers profound lessons of spiritual beauty which still resonate today.
As in the ancient parable, the hero of Dmitri Matheny's The SnowCat finds her companion and returns home to appreciate the beauty of nature, play music, and have fun with friends. She maintains hope, optimism and determination in the face of adversity; discovers the gentle power of sitting quietly; and embodies the spirit of sharing and gratitude that makes the holidays such a magical time.
"I was inspired by the profound message of The Oxherder, and the simple shape of its narrative," Matheny remarked. "In The SnowCat, however, our hero is not a boy, but a girl named 'Sam.' Instead of an ox, her companion is a luminous white cat. Our setting isn't 13th century Japan, but 21st century America. And instead of a flute, Sam plays a flugelhorn!"
"The SnowCat story is certainly spiritual, but it is secular, not religious, and thus it is universal. It contains great messages for both kids and adults," Matheny said. "Children will appreciate the spirit of fun and friendship between Sam and the SnowCat. Adults may also view the story as an allegory or parable."
Our narrative poses questions worthy of adult contemplation: Who am I? What am I seeking? What does it mean to go home, or to cross to the other shore? What is serenity? And why are dancing, music, and play so important?