The international youth sing-off 

click to enlarge Cross-cultural extravaganza: Twenty choirs from 12 countries are gathering this week in the Bay Area for the Golden Gate International Children’s and Youth Choral Festival. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Cross-cultural extravaganza: Twenty choirs from 12 countries are gathering this week in the Bay Area for the Golden Gate International Children’s and Youth Choral Festival.

The ninth triennial Golden Gate International Children’s and Youth Choral Festival brings together more than 600 young vocal artists from 12 countries for performances, competitions and cross-cultural enrichment.

Presented by the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, it remains the only opportunity for children’s and youth choirs to meet and compete on an international field in the U.S.

Opening Monday, with programming across the Bay Area, the festival culminates at 7 p.m. Saturday when participants from four continents come together for a grand finale concert in UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall.

“When we started the festival in 1991, we recognized the remarkable musical and cultural value that festivals provide,” says Robert Geary, Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir founder and artistic director. “Our goal has always been to celebrate the artistic excellence of youth choirs from around the world, and hear the standard bearers for what’s possible in the children’s choir world. There is nothing more uplifting than the final concert when nearly 700 singers perform together under the direction of our international guest conductors.”

Soprano Daphne Williams, 16, an eight-year veteran of Piedmont Choirs, participates in her second Golden Gate International Children and Youth Choral Festival this year. “Last time we had the festival, it was unforgettable,” she says.

“Our family hosted two girls from China. At first they didn’t speak much English, so we all didn’t know how to communicate well. The first night, one of the girls started playing the piano, and everyone recognized the song and began singing together. The music became our conversation.

“This year we look forward to hosting two Lithuanian girls. My favorite things about the festival are making friends from different cultures, and the incredible music from many different cultures that we won’t hear anywhere else.”

Mezzo Maddie Ahlers, 15, another eight-year veteran of Piedmont Choirs, seconds Williams’ excitement. “I enjoy the festival’s final concert where everyone sings together,” she says. “It’s kind of amazing that we can all learn music together and sing even though we come from far apart.”

Concerts begin Monday when choirs from China, Canada, Indonesia, Honduras, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Philippines, Australia, Lithuania, Democratic Republic of Georgia and the U.S. perform individually in Berkeley’s First Presbyterian Church.

On subsequent days, between competitions and performances, the children and youth up to the age of 23 spend three hours rehearsing their music for the final multi-cultural concert.

The international choral smorgasbord is in The City in a spotlight concert Wednesday in Old First Church, while folks up north can head to the Napa Valley Opera House on Sunday for a community concert at Festival Del Sole.


Golden Gate International Children’s and Youth Choral Festival
Presented by Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir
Where: East Bay, San Francisco and Napa
When: Monday through July 15
Tickets: Mostly free
Contact: (510) 547-4441,


Spotlight Concert
Where: Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $14 to $17

Grand Finale Concert
Where: Zellerbach Hall, Lower Sproul Plaza, Bancroft Way near Telegraph Avenue, UC Berkeley
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $15 to $35
Contact: (800) 838-3006,

About The Author

Jason Victor Serinus

Jason Victor Serinus

Jason Victor Serinus is a music and high performance audio critic, whistler, and lecturer on opera and vocal recordings. He is editor of Psychoimmunity and the Healing Process: A Holistic Approach to Immunity & AIDS. In addition to writing for the San Francisco Examiner, he has written about music for Opera News,... more
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