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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

From a Window Seat: Fans Take Airplane Window Photos for L.A.-based Band Dawes

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If you’re anything like me, fighting with travel companions for the window seat—whether in a plane, train, or automobile—is a rite of passage. And with the proliferation of photo apps and filters, it’s never been more tempting to snap a shot of the view (and, of course, post it on Twitter, complete with a humblebrag).

The Los Angeles-based country-roots-rock band Dawes has taken this idea to new heights, inspired by their latest single "From a Window Seat." For the last few weeks, the band and their fans have been tweeting and Instagramming photos taken from airplane windows (and cars, trains, buses, hotel rooms, etc.), using the hashtag #fromawindowseat. Next came a dedicated website, which compiles the photos and highlights the band’s favorites. But before you start snapping, check out these T+L tips for getting the best view in the sky, and don’t miss our recent slideshow of reader-generated photos taken from planes.

Brooke Porter
Brooke Porter is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.

Photo credit: caliswag111

"We’re Just Trying to Connect People" Q&A with DJ Armin Van Buuren

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The world’s number one DJ ambles into the rooftop lounge PHD at Manhattan’s Dream Downtown hotel, a soft midday light filling the clubby space that was chockablock with the city’s party-set just hours before. Armin van Buuren shoos away a fruit plate from his publicist and goes right for the coffee. He looks a tad sleepy and who can blame him? At this point, he’s on the tail-end of his massive Expedition tour—a celebration of his 600th podcast, A State of Trance—that’s taken him to far-flung locales in every corner of the globe: Minsk, Belarus; Sofia, Bulgaria; Kuala Lumpur; Beirut; Mumbai; Guatemala City; and onto his hometown Den Bosch, Netherlands.

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3 Great New Orleans Music Venues

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We asked Alison Fensterstock, a consultant for HBO’s Treme, for her top three venues in the Big Easy—winner for Best Music Scene in our America’s Favorite Cities survey.

D.B.A. has a great mix of local rock, soul, and brass in an intimate setting.”

“The corner of St. Claude and Elysian Fields is a burgeoning music district. Drop into Hi Ho Lounge for acoustic bluegrass.”

Saturn Bar, a dive in Bywater with a thrift-store feel, hosts casual sets from neighborhood musicians.”

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Cruise Conference Update: Norwegian Cruise's Magical Getaway

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Passengers aboard Norwegian Cruise's Getaway can sign up for a truly magic dinner in the Illusionarium, a domed space where Hogswarts meets Jules Verne. The experience, priced at $35, will feature a magic show and dinner, the company announced Wednesday at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference. The project was designed by Broadway director/choreographer Patricia Wilcox, Tony Award-winning scenic designer David Gallo and veteran magician Jeff Hobson.

And get ready to rock. The Getaway, which launches in January 2014 with sailings from Miami, will feature a Grammy Experience venue, with memorabilia and live performances from Grammy winners and nominees. In fall 2014, the ship will host a Grammy Experience themed cruise.

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