About 20 choirs from around the world will be sharing their talents around the East Bay from July 8 to 14 as part of the Golden Gate International Children and Youth Choral Festival.
The event, which takes place every three years, is being held for the ninth time thanks to the efforts of Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir artistic director Robert Geary and others.
"It's a world class festival that has to be run like other world-class festivals," said Geary. "Our festival does a lot to bring a world of choirs into the East Bay community, and the community does a lot to make these people feel at home, so everyone can have a full cultural experience."
Most of the concerts and events on tap for the weeklong festival are free, and many are being held in Alameda, Berkeley and Oakland, along with other Bay Area cities.
The 700 students participating in the festival are divided into groups by age: The youth choruses are comprised of students 23 and under, while the children's choirs include kids 16 and under.
The majority of the participants, more than 400, will stay with East Bay residents during the festival, says Geary, and many will be going to picnics, taking a cruise on the Bay and enjoying the sights when they're not on stage.
"This is about the East Bay opening its homes and, therefore, its hearts to welcome people from around the world into the California lifestyle," said Geary.
Some groups are traveling from Austria,
"The solo and historical-folk competitions are open to public and free of charge," said Geary, as are most of the noncompetitive or "spotlight" concerts. "These do feature children's singing, but they are singing fairly advanced repertoires, and there is an artistic side to the performances that aspires to high levels."
Overall, the event organizer says, the performances should be "inspiring."
"When 700 young people spend a week together to perform, something really special happens," Geary explained. "There's a spiritual uplift that gives you great hope."
The final concert is set for 7 p.m. July 14 at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall.
For the full schedule of the choir festival, go to http://goldengatefestival.org.
What: Golden Gate International Children & Youth Choral Festival
When: July 9-15
Where: Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland and throughout Bay Area
Cost: Most events are free