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Thomas Becket was murdered here in 1170 by knights loyal to King Henry II.

They rehearsed in a small, stuffy music room at the top of a narrow staircase in one corner of the cathedral. Its walls are several feet thick, lined with shelves full of sheet music by Mozart, Bach, Benjamin Britten and others.

But they still attract notice in an institution that values its traditions and changes slowly. Anglicans are still seeking an elusive consensus on the divisive issues of female bishops and gay clergy.

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That is music to the Nike Sweaters Boys ears of 16 year old chorister Poppy Braddy.

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"That's an amazing thought in the back of your mind no girl has sung in this cathedral over an amazingly long period of time," said 12 year old choir member Abby Cox. "I've always liked singing, but I think this is the major event that has happened in my life and I'm so excited to be part of it."

Dean of Canterbury Robert Willis said music has been sung in the cathedral since it was founded first by monks, then by a choir of men and boys set up more than 1,000 years ago. He stressed that a female choir was "a natural development" that adds "diversity and richness" to the cathedral's traditions.

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Tradition is especially important at Canterbury, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of London, whose archbishop heads the Anglican church. Founded in the 6th century although most of the spiky Gothic building dates from later in the Middle Ages it has been an important place of Christian pilgrimage since Archbishop of Canterbury Nike Pants For Girls

"I think this is just the beginning of something new," she said. "I think it will encourage the church forward. I don't think there is anywhere that women should be limited."

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Girls' choirs are not a complete novelty in the Church of England Salisbury Cathedral established one in the 1990s and several other cathedrals have followed. Female voices have occasionally been heard in Canterbury Cathedral as part of visiting choirs.

Singing girls have their opponents, too, including one group called the Campaign for the Traditional Cathedral Choir, set up to "champion the ancient tradition of the all male choir."

That is not lost on the 16 girls, aged between 12 and 16, who have been chosen to make this bit of history.

Canterbury is not the first British cathedral to set up a girls' choir, but as the mother church of the 80 million strong Anglican Communion one struggling to define the role of women in its ranks its move has special resonance.

At a rehearsal Wednesday night, the choristers arrived in jeans or school uniforms, chatting and laughing as they changed into long purple cassocks. During services, they will wear white surplices over the robes.

The choristers attend several local schools and were chosen at auditions in November. Unlike members of the Canterbury boys' choir, who live at the cathedral and rehearse every day, the girls come together just once a week.

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 photo, Choristers Chloe Chawner, right, Poppy Braddy, centre, and Abby Cox look at their hymn books at Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England, as the first all female choir at the cathedral rehearses prior to their debut on Jan. 25. The pure, high voices of the choir soar toward the vaulted ceiling of Canterbury Cathedral as they have for more than 1,000 years. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The girls' choir will perform initially when the boys take a break each term, but Willis said the girls will eventually play a bigger role.

CANTERBURY, England (AP) The pure, high voices of the choir soar toward the vaulted ceiling of Nike Leggings Pro

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Canterbury Cathedral as they have for more than 1,000 years. Just one thing is different these young choristers in their purple cassocks are girls.

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Their high voices mingled as Newsholme coaxed the girls through an anthem by 19th century composer Samuel Sebastian Wesley: "Who can express the noble acts of the Lord?"

"And occasionally I'm sure in the future, both of the choirs will sing together on festival occasions," he said.

"Nothing of the old tradition is damaged," he said. "It's being enriched, enlivened and developed."

will end centuries of all male tradition.

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1 000 years on girls sing at Canterbury Cathedral

Despite their limited rehearsal time, choir director David Newsholme said the girls are focused and enthusiastic about the psalms, anthems and responses they have to learn.

In this Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 photo, members of the first female choir follow this music from sheets during rehearsals in Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England, prior to their debut on Jan. 25. The pure, high voices of the choir soar toward the vaulted ceiling of Canterbury Cathedral as they have for more than 1,000 years. Just one thing is different _ these young choristers in their purple cassocks are girls, and their public debut at Evensong on Saturday will end centuries of all male tradition. Canterbury is not the first British cathedral to set up a girls' choir, but as mother church of the 80 million strong Anglican Communion _ one struggling with the role of women in its ranks _ its move has special resonance. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

"We've had to learn it quite quickly, but it's just so fun to be in here you don't really think about that," said Cox. "You are making music with girls that are as passionate as you are."

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