A 160-voice choir might seem an unlikely choice to appear on an audience-participation talent-search show, the kind that tends to produce the occasional Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, but mostly flash-in-the pan pop stars.
Yet Angel City Chorale has made it to the semifinals of the 13th season of "America's Got Talent," the one that features the often-acerbic Simon Cowell as a judge and the towering Tyra Banks as host.
Clintonville native Charlotte-Ann Riffey, who joined the choir in 2009, is hopeful she and 159 of her closest friends will continue their surprising success when they perform live on the NBC program, which starts at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11.
"I think the community has been really supportive of us," Riffey said. "It's a little amazing to us the emails and the letters that we're getting. People around the world are encouraging us to go on to the semifinals and to win it all."
During the episode of "America's Got Talent" that aired July 24, the chorale received the "golden buzzer" from guest judge Olivia Munn, sending it directly to the semifinals. The winning performance featured a song from the video game "Civilization IV."
"For me personally, the biggest thing for our organization and for me is the exposure," said Leena Mathew, a native of Toronto who joined Angel City Chorale in 2008 and now is board president. "We're receiving these beautiful letters from all over the world telling us what our message of community ... and being accepted means to them."
Jimmer Bolden, a member of the choir since 2012 who has performed in musical theater and is a jazz vocalist, paid the group perhaps the ultimate compliment in terms of what the camaraderie means to him.
"To me, it's more exciting than if I was doing this on my own," he said.
Riffey, who grew up on Rosemary Lane and attended what's now Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, moved to Los Angeles in 2000 and enrolled at the University of Southern California, where she majored in theater.
She now works as a voice-over artist.
"I love it," Riffey said. "I wouldn't give it up for anything."
Joining the choir, which was founded with only 18 singers in 1993 by artistic director Sue Fink, was more or less a fluke for Riffey.
"I was actually more of a theater person and I played trumpet in high school, but when I came out to LA ... I actually ran across Angel City Chorale randomly on Google," she said. "I ended up getting into the group and never leaving after that. I think it's the variety of music we do."
Riffey said a YouTube video of the choir performing Toto's "Africa" received more than 10 million views and probably was responsible for "America's Got Talent" producers extending the invitation to audition for the show.
"It's been amazing," Riffey said. "Honestly, it's a little crazy. Transporting 160 people to do anything at one time is a little bit of insanity."
Angel City Chorale occupies an entire floor of the theater from which the show is broadcast.
"We just don't fit into the regular holding area," Riffey said.
"It's a really great group of people," Bolden said. "It's always fun musically. The reason everybody is coming together is our director, Sue Fink, and our mission, which is building community one song at a time. We're connecting with people through music and we also do some community outreach.
"The business side of me -- my day job is in franchising -- says here's a great opportunity to leverage all that exposure. I think in the long run we've increased our fan base and we've really gotten the opportunity to have people assist us with our mission."