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VOENA, a Benicia-based choir, where Bay Area children sing in 21 different languages, is making a trip to the Olympic summer games in London. Joe Rosato Jr. reports.
Members of Benicia's VOENA Children's Choir headed to the airport Tuesday morning to fly to London, where they will sing at the passing of the torch for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Fifty-five performers ranging in age from 8 to 18 years old are going on the trip, choir founder and director Annabelle Marie said.
The group's first show will be an outdoor performance Thursday morning as part of the torch relay, followed by an evening concert at St. John at Hackney Church where they are double-billed with the British vocal group Mediaeval Baebes, Marie said.
On Saturday they will perform on the main bandstand inside Olympic Park.
The choir will then head to Ireland on Sunday to sing at hospitals and perform for the community, she said. On the way, Marie hopes to make a special stop to have the youths sing songs "all spread out at Stonehenge."
Austin Kauzer, 18, has been with the choir for about eight years, and will leave the group in the fall when he starts college at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
At San Francisco International Airport this morning, he said he "cannot wait" for the adventures on tap over the next few days. This will be his first time out of the country, he said.
Kauzer said his favorite moments are right before going onstage.
"All the kids are ready, and you can just feel the energy backstage," he said.
Performing at the Olympics is "just going to be amazing," he said.
With Kauzer was 11-year-old Gabriella Campitelli, who is in her first year with VOENA.
"I wasn't much of a singer in the beginning; I just wanted to do it for the music, because music is in my blood," she said.
Her father is Jeff Campitelli, who plays drums for guitarist Joe Satriani. She said her dad will perform with the choir in London, and jet back and forth between the Olympics and the European venues where Satriani's tour is stopping.
Marie said her singers planned to wear white T-shirts bearing the VOENA logo along with "2012 London Olympics" for the plane ride. On the backs of the T-shirts are the names of sponsors, including the French Laundry, Syar Industries and Valero.
She said the sponsorships paid for some of the travel costs, but that about 25 children couldn't afford to go in the end.
The choir, founded in 1994, has about 140 members and is known for its a cappella world music, including Japanese, Celtic and Swahili songs, Marie said. VOENA stands for Voices of Eve 'N Angels.
Over the years, the group has performed for the likes of presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. One performance, Marie said, drew tears from poet Maya Angelou.
Marie said the choir is different than other vocal groups, in part because she incorporates theatrics and movement into singing.
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