ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — The Roanoke Valley Children's Choir sopranos realized immediately they'd missed their cue.

While they giggled sheepishly, Kim Davidson, the concert choir's director for the past 30 years, silenced the altos with a wave of her arm. Davidson cupped her hands and reached out to the sopranos.

"An engraved invitation to the sopranos," Davidson said with a smile. "Please join us."

There was no time to waste at rehearsals, the final ones before the choir departed July 22 for England. The choir will perform first at Canterbury Cathedral and then travel to London to perform at Southwark Cathedral.

It's the choir's second trip to perform at the International Children's Choir Festival but the first time these 55 students will make the trip. At Canterbury, they'll perform the church's daily choral evensong, an evening prayer service held daily for the past 1,400 years with only two missed because of war.

The choral evensong selections are formal, steeped in the cathedral's centuries-old choral tradition. It's been challenging music for the children's choir to learn, Davidson said. Wednesday, they were still fine-tuning the arrangements.

"You just need to step into your comfortable shoes and sing this like you've been singing Gregorian chants for your entire life," Davidson told the group.

This is the most music the choir has had to memorize and prepare for any festival they've attended, said David Gepitulan, 15.

"It's very intimidating," said Amie Uotinen, 14.

"It's a lot of fun, though, getting to learn different music and being exposed to different music," said Alice Radjou, 16. "Especially as young as we are, it's really exciting to learn different languages and composers."

The choir has eagerly anticipated the trip since it recorded an audition tape three years ago.

"It's been a long wait," Gepitulan said. "It's finally here."

Most of what the choir has prepared are traditional evensong selections, but their repertoire also includes an African-American spiritual hymn, "Ride the Chariot," and The Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun." Radjou said her favorite piece is "Ukuthula," a Zulu hymn that means "peace."

"We were singing it on Monday practicing and I actually started tearing up," she said. "It's such a powerful song."

The concert choir's last trip to Canterbury in 2011 was eye-opening, Davidson said. She's looking forward to this group having similar experiences.

"I can even still hear the ringing sounds in those cathedrals, and to see the children have that experience, their view of the world, their view of singing, everything was just expanded," she said. "It was just full of beautiful moments."

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Information from: The Roanoke Times, http://www.roanoke.com