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TSA Chorus (yes, you heard right) sings holiday songs at LAX

December 20, 2011|By Catharine Hamm | Los Angeles Times Travel Editor

You know them as the folks who make you take off your shoes and bark at you about liquids and gels. But Tuesday, the TSA Chorus made hearts light at Terminal 4's American Airlines gates as they performed for passengers caught up in the extra madness of holiday travel at Los Angeles International Airport.

 The chorus — yes they all work for Transportation Security Administration — was singing a mix of holiday classics, at least one gospel number ("Emmanuel"), and "I Believe I Can Fly," which takes on special meaning at the airport.

Ernest Perez III belted out "Georgia on My Mind" and "America the Beautiful" a la Ray Charles. Perez, a safety specialist with the TSA by day, is a tenor/songwriter who has been involved with music most of his life.

 "I love lifting spirits," he told me before the performance. "And there is no better way to do this than with music."

Their leader, Raul Matute, who has performed with Etta James, Santana and Miles Davis, among others, auditions the singers. He calls himself the Simon Cowell of the group but doesn’t sing.

"I try to keep my vocals out of it," he said with a laugh. "The group practices and performs on its own time, not taxpayers."

You can hear them again at noon Thursday in the publicly accessible area of the Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX.

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