The Check-In: Classical music in the catacombs, reducing jet lag, and more

Nonprofit Death of Classical offers musical tales from the crypt

A woman plays the violin in a crypt
(Image credit: Courtesy of Death of Classical)

Welcome to The Check-In, our weekend feature focusing on all things travel.

Death of Classical is alive and well

The crypts, caves, catacombs and cemeteries of New York City have become an unexpected haven for classical music lovers. Throughout the year, the nonprofit Death of Classical presents classical music and opera concerts in these unusual venues. "Classical music has definitely allowed itself to become culturally marginalized, and our goal above all has simply been to get people feeling excited about the art form, connecting to it on a personal and emotional level and viewing it with the same energy that they view a new TV show or similar," Death of Classical founder Andrew Ousley told The Week.

Andrew Ousley

Andrew Ousley.
(Image credit: Kevin Condon)

"We try to seek out venues that have a presence, an energy that augments the experience of hearing music within them and that focuses the attention of audiences so that there are minimal distractions between them and the performers," Ousley said. "We also look for spaces that have a unique, visceral acoustic for live music. To this point, it's largely been crypts, catacombs, caves and the like, but we're open to expanding to other spaces that are less subterranean and death-related."

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It's important to Ousley that events feel fresh and not stuffy. Classical music "is often old fashioned or exclusionary in how it positions itself," he said, and Death of Classical takes a more casual approach, pairing its concerts with food, wine, beer and spirits. The concerts also feature contemporary music by living composers in addition to works from past greats.

Lawrence Brownlee and Damien Sneed perform

Lawrence Brownlee and Damien Sneed perform during a Crypt Session.
(Image credit: Andrew Ousley)

"From an experiential standpoint, we find that being surrounded by reminders of mortality helps make our audiences appreciate the precious, fleeting, shared moments of our concerts that much more," Ousley said. "And given that we program very emotionally impactful works, we often get folks leaving with tears in their eyes."

A Death of Classical concert

From the outside looking in at a Death of Classical concert.
(Image credit: Courtesy of Death of Classical)

Travel news

New study looks at how the inflight experience can reduce jet lag

Australian airline Qantas and the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Center teamed up for a study looking into ways flight experiences can be tailored to reduce the effects of jet lag. During three research flights from New York and London to Sydney, volunteers were fed meals designed to aid with sleep, including fish and chicken with fast-acting carbs, Qantas said. The passengers also were encouraged to stretch and engage in physical activities, and the cabin's lighting was changed to help them adapt to Sydney's time zone.

A Qantas airplane

A Qantas flight prepares to land in Sydney.
(Image credit: James D. Morgan / Getty Images)

The study's initial findings were shared on June 16 — the full results will be published at a later date — and show that compared to passengers on a traditional inflight sequence, those who participated in the research reported less-severe jet lag, better sleep while on the plane, and better cognitive performance in the two days after the flight. Qantas Group CEO Alana Joyce said in a statement, "Given our geography, Qantas has a long history of using imagination and innovation to overcome the tyranny of distance between Australia and the rest of the world."

Qantas is expected to launch its nonstop long-haul flights between Sydney and New York, called Project Sunrise, in late 2025, after receiving its first A350. "Now that we have the aircraft technology to do these flights, we want to make sure the customer experience evolves as well, and that's why we're doing this research and designing our cabins and service differently," Joyce said.

CDC urges Americans traveling abroad to be up to date on MMR vaccine

Americans traveling abroad this summer should make sure they're protected against measles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a health advisory issued June 21. The CDC said that the U.S. has "seen an increase in measles cases during the first five months of 2023, with 16 reported cases compared with three in 2022 during the same period." Of those cases, 88% are linked to international travel, with most of the patients unvaccinated. New outbreaks have been reported in the United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, several parts of Africa, and areas of the Middle East, the CDC said.

Two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine offer 97% protection against measles, which is highly contagious. The CDC stated that an unvaccinated person "can get measles just by being in a room where a person with measles had been, even up to two hours after that person has left."

Flagship Tiffany's Blue Box Café has a brand-new look

The Blue Box Café is back. Located on the sixth floor of the flagship Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the cafe reopened in late May with a seasonally inspired menu from Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud. Diners can have breakfast — of course, it is Tiffany's — lunch, afternoon tea or dinner under an art installation made of iconic Tiffany-blue boxes.

The new Blue Box Café

The Blue Box Café is decorated in Tiffany's signature shade of blue.
(Image credit: Courtesy photo)

Upcoming events to add to your calendar

Setting sail on March 13, 2024, from Miami, the Broadway Cruise 2 will allow guests to spend five days at sea with some of their favorite stars from the Great White Way. Held on board the Norwegian Pearl, the cruise will make stops in Key West and Grand Cayman. The agenda is packed with workshops, panel discussions and several different shows, with the talent including Tony Award winners Christian Borle, Matt Doyle, Santino Fontana and Phillipa Soo, as well as Theatre World Award winners Cheyenne Jackson, Eva Noblezada and Daphne Rubin-Vega.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.