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Haitian Singer Leyla McCalla Sings of Love and Heartbreak On Debut Album

Born in New York to Haitian parents, and now living in New Orleans, Leyla McCalla delivers an uncontrived blend of rhythm and folk on her debut album, Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes, out this week. Behind each pluck of her cello and every soulfully sung lyric, there is cultural influence and unfiltered emotion. Whether singing in English or Creole, Leyla's intent is clear; she wants you to feel.

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Celebrities Talk Los Angeles in Thirty Seconds to Mars Music Video

The new music video for "City of Angels," from the band Thirty Seconds to Mars is an 11-minute tribute to Tinseltown, featuring sweeping aerial shots interspersed with interviews from A-Listers and celebrity impersonators.

Watch as Kanye West, Lindsey Lohan, James Franco, Selena Gomez, and others discuss their city—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The effect is more love-letter to L.A. than music video.

Feeling inspired? Check out T+L's guide to the Los Angeles.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

New Album Released by Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble

Fifteen years ago, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who was already busy with a full and demanding career as a recitalist, a soloist with orchestras, and chamber music, launched the Silk Road Project, a music collective inspired by the cross-cultural exchange along the ancient Silk Road route. As befits an ensemble that performs music diverse in style and from varied musical traditions, the group includes Western classical instruments—violin, cello, double bass—but also features instruments from throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East, South Asia, and China: Galician bagpipe; a kamancheh, a Persian fiddle; tabla or Indian drums; and the pipa, an ancient Chinese plucked string instrument, among others. The aim was to foster contemporary music, incorporating varied and established traditions, and that they have.

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Harlem's Newest Old Jazz Joint

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Harlem has a new (old) jazz joint. Ever want to get up and groove at a swanky jazz club, but the crowd is too stuffy to dance?

Just head to Minton’s in Harlem, a restoration of the historic Minton’s Playhouse that opened on October 21st.

With three seatings a night, guests can don their best attire (that means jackets only, men), graze on prix-fixe Low Country grub, and share a spontaneous dance in the aisle between the supper club’s two rows of seating.

The new joint lets you enjoy music as you please—just like the renowned jam sessions held at the Minton’s of the 1940's. A mural from the original Minton’s still hangs behind the stage, featuring Hot Lips Page, Charlie Christian, and a sleeping woman that’s supposedly Billie Holiday.

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Irish Singer Declan O'Rourke Makes U.S. Debut

“Divine Intervention.”

That’s how Irish folk-rock star Declan O’Rourke characterizes his foray into music. How else to explain the circumstances behind the acquisition of his first guitar, gifted to him by a priest as a ten-year-old boy in Melbourne, Australia?

It’s been a faith-driven journey from there to here, another string-picker on the Dublin open-mic circuit to opener for cult-band Snow Patrol and the legendary Bob Dylan. On October 8th, O’Rourke celebrated his first U.S. release with the album “Mag Pai Zai”, which, along with records “Since Kyabram” (2004) and “Big Bad Beautiful World”(2007), has been a mainstay on the Top Ten charts across the pond. The latest ballads stay true to O’Rourke’s classic, crooning sound, yet unfurl with a newfangled sense of self-assuredness.

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New Concert Series Cements Columbus Circle as a Top Jazz Destination

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New York City’s Columbus Circle has been on the music map for almost a decade, thanks to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s outpost in the Time Warner Center. On the fifth floor, its Dizzy’s Club brings jazz “out of the basement,” showcasing the genre’s best acts and serving up soul food—all with a Central Park and skyline view.

Now, thirty flights directly above Dizzy’s, the Mandarin Oriental, New York—a T+L World’s Best Award winner seven years straight—is adding its own take on the jazz club with a weekly series of concerts in its Lobby Lounge. Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., musicians from the Juilliard School perform, while hotel guests and visitors soak in the lounge’s 35th-floor panorama of the city—and maybe a cocktail or two.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo courtesy of Mandarin Oriental, New York 

Virginia's World-Class Staunton Music Festival

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The waning days of the summer bring the final weeks of music and arts festivals, from the large and celebrated, the Salzburg Festival in Austria, Tanglewood in the Berkshires, to the less well-known.

One surprise and a secret to most, but not for long, is the Staunton Music Festival in Virginia.  Staunton has acquired a near mythic status in farm-to-fork food circles (see the “Up On The Ridge”by Matt Lee and Ted Lee in Travel + Leisure, July 2012) and for nine days in August, the Staunton Music Festival brings together some of the most talented musicians, established professionals and emerging young artists, from throughout the United States and Europe to this quiet spot in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Contest Watch: Iceland's Airwaves Music Festival

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Iceland’s Reyka Vodka is running a contest for two lucky bands to win an all-expense paid trip to Iceland to play the stage at Iceland Airwaves October 30th through November 3rd. Reyka asks that potential bands, DJs, and musicians submit up to three of their own songs and then Airwaves will select the contest winners based solely on skill. You better move (and play) fast though, the last day for entry is August 19th. 

Find out more and how to enter here.

Gabrielle Blitz is the Associate Social Media Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Christian Kerber

Rite of Spring Redux: 100 Years of a Stravinsky Masterpiece

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One hundred years ago on May 29, 1913, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring exploded onto the European scene in a celebrated, riotous premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. Ever since, dance companies have taken up the challenge to stage a work that captures the power and the sweep of Stravinsky’s revolutionary masterpiece. 

On the day of the centennial anniversary, May 29, 2013, the Richmond Ballet, as part of the Virginia Arts Festival, presents the Rite, in Salvatore Aiello’s sensual staging. While in Paris, the Mariinsky Ballet returns to the scene of the crime, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, with a reconstruction of the imagined, original production, choreography and décor newly realized by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer.

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Legoland's Disco Elevator Takes You Higher

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Unless you’re allergic to primary colors—or LEGOS, of course—the biggest problem with the new Legoland Hotel in Carlsbad, California, may be that it’s not taller.

For a lot of grown-up guests, the coolest part about the otherwise kid-centric, three-story hotel may be the “disco elevator.” Inside, the walls are decorated with nightclub-ready LEGO characters, a strobe light hangs from the ceilings, and when the doors close, the lava floor panels light up and the music kicks in: ABBA, the BeeGees, the Village People. It makes you think: How many elevators out there have wasted an opportunity to be fun? (The hotel has figured out how to make everything enjoyable: there’s also a jump-able whoopee cushion corner in the elevator lobby.)

Nigel Woods, the project designer who created the elevator, told us that he felt he had to up the ante set by the elevator at another theme park hotel, the Alton Towers Splash Landing Hotel, in the UK. “It plays some ‘Hawaii Five O’ music,” he told us by email, “which my children (Emily, 9 and Lucy 6) and I loved to dance to as we went up to our room.” Then, he recounts, he saw a YouTube video of a disco elevator, “and fell over laughing. From there, the Legoland disco elevator was born.”

While at least one reviewer has pooh-poohed the elevator as a little intense for toddlers (or parents who haven't had their morning coffee)—most guests at the hotel's opening in April seemed to love it. Some of us may have wished the ride lasted longer than just two floors up from the lobby. Then again, some guests booked on the ground floor were guilty of mere joyriding.

See: World's Greatest Elevator Views.

Photo credit: LEGOLAND California Resort

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