Voices of Our City to perform at governor’s tree-lighting, annual holiday concert

America's Got Talent host Terry Crews will be a guest on the choir's Thursday night online holiday concert.
San Diego’s Voices of Our City choir will perform at governor’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
(Courtesy NBC)

America’s Got Talent host Terry Crews among guests at Thursday’s online show


San Diego’s Voices of Our City choir hasn’t performed publicly since their final appearance on America’s Got Talent in September, but this week fans will get a double-dose of the ensemble with back-to-back holiday concerts.

On Thursday, the choir will perform an online holiday concert with special guests, and on Friday they will be featured in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Steph Johnson, who co-founded the choir with the late Nina Deering in 2016 as a form of homeless outreach, said the new year also will bring the choir even more exposure and success, with a possible tour and the release of original music.

The choir’s holiday concert is 6 p.m. Thursday and can be viewed at the group’s website, The performance is free, but a $20 donation is requested.

The tree-lighting ceremony with Gov. Newsom can be see starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook by following @CAgovernor.

Voices of Our City was featured on the season premiere of America’s Got Talent and received a “Golden Buzzer” from host Terry Crews, automatically advancing them to the semi-final rounds. They continued to advance with votes from fans who were moved by performances of the choir, which includes members who are homeless or formerly homeless, but they were eliminated before the series finale.

Despite not winning the competition, Johnson said the national exposure has brought the choir new opportunities and funding for its programs. Donations that followed their appearance on the show helped find a home for one singer, the 65th choir member the organization has helped house.

Johnson said the governor’s office reached out to the choir in October to be part of the tree-lighting ceremony with a live performance, but they instead will be featured singing a recorded song because some members don’t have WiFi and Zoom does not work well with live music.

The company Right Angle Entertainment donated $5,000 for the choir to record the choir performing a Christmas song arranged by Bobby Cressey, organist for the San Diego Padres.

“We made a beautiful video at at Junipero Serra Museum in Old Town,” Johnson said. “It makes me cry just talking about it.”

When live performances are someday possible again, Johnson said Right Angle Entertainment wants to work with the choir to book a tour.

The Thursday holiday concert will feature appearances by Crews and San Diego Mayor-elect Todd Gloria and performances by fellow America’s Got Talent finalist Cristina Rae, the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, San Diego Children’s Choir and the Jerusalem Youth Chorus.

Johnson said the choir will perform two songs — one is “super fun and colorful” and the other will get people in the holiday spirit — that were recorded with safety precautions they learned from America’s Got Talent. Singers were individually recorded at Studio West, and their voices were blended together for songs that featured about 30 people, she said.

The Thursday holiday concert will raise funds for future programs, but also pay tribute to some important members from their past. Co-founder Deering died in a vehicle accident this year, and Johnson said the event will be dedicated to her.

The concert also will feature Johnson performing James Taylor’s “Shower the People” in memory of Brian Wallace, one of the original choir members, who loved the song and died about three years ago.

The event will include video of choir member Stephen Reid, who co-wrote “Sounds of the Sidewalk,” the song that moved Crews to hit the Golden Buzzer after their first performance. Reid died this year shortly after the March 7 performance of the song on America’s Got Talent.