OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- Hundreds of children are in Oakland this week for the Golden Gate International Children's and Youth Choral Festival, which kicked off Monday night at the Scottish Rite Temple by Oakland's Lake Merritt.
Dressed in cultural attire, each choral group carried the flag of their country. It was a display of pride and a comraderie with other young singers.
This festival is a series of concerts and competitions.
During rehearsals, the group from Austria displayed its ability to perform the unexpected with a rendition of a song from Bali about the "Monkey King" that was a departure from traditional choir music.
"It feels amazing. In the piece of music, everything is energetic and you only want to sing, shout and scream," said 15-year-old Magsi Furnstratt from Austria.
The Austrian team won first place in the contemporary music category during the last competition and hopes for a repeat.
The high school students say music transports them to a place of comfort.
"It's more relaxing than school. We can not think about school when we sing," said Annalena Eggeling from Austria.
There are more than 650 young singers participating from eight countries. All of them are being hosted by the families of the local students,
"You really get to know everyone. I really like getting to know the different choirs. Being able to have friends all over the world ...that's the really exciting part," said Ryan Howzell, a 16 year old with the Piedmont East Bay Children's Chorus.
The Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir is hosting the event.
The festival is held once every three years. It brings together students ages eight to eighteen from countires including Finland, China and Canada.
Each group showing off their strengths whether it be in classical, gospel or contemporary music.
"I like how it feels in my body when I sing. I'm using all my body. It's kind of like working out, but with voice," said Lotta Ropponen, an 18 year old from Finland.
The students say the festival is a chance for them to learn about other cultures and share their own through music.
"Bridges are made between people from different countries that have an impact on the future of this world," said Robert Geary, artistic director for the Golden Gate International Children's and Youth Choral Festival.
Geary says the goal of the event is to build friendships across continents that hopefully will last a lifetime.
For more information including a list of free concerts, visit www.goldengatefestival.org