At LAX, TSA Workers Sing Cheer Into Holiday Travel

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Turns out some of those dour security officers who make you take your shoes off at the airport have plenty of Christmas spirit. Travel isn't usually a highlight of the holidays, but at Los Angeles International Airport some of the Transportation Security Administration workers enjoy the season so much they sing.

True to its duties, the LAX TSA Chorus isn't joking. Its singers are actually TSA employees who don Santa hats during the holiday season and perform in the middle of the airport.

Ray Matute, the director of the chorus, tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Audie Cornish that the quizzical looks the singers get from hassled travelers soon turn to smiles.

"It really puts the good face — and the human face — of TSA on the map," he says. Matute's passion for music led him to found the chorus a few years back. "It gives all of us creative people here within the organization an outlet."

During its 45-minute show, the chorus sings the usual Christmas carols — Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Silver Bells — but also slips in some of the singers' own favorites, like What a Wonderful World and You Are So Beautiful.

"Its signature song? America the Beautiful," of course.

Some might worry about who's patting down passengers, but Matute reassures. "There's 2,000 officers here at LAX, so having 16 of us out for one hour to do some performances does not impact the operation."

There's video of the chorus performing during last year's holiday season here, with a report from USA Today.

As the Los Angeles Times wrote earlier this week, the LAX singers also perform "motivational and patriotic fare on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, July 4 and Sept. 11." They've been singing together since 2003, the Times says.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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