Musician's life hits crescendo Daughter to marry on eve of 'Messiah'

There are weekends and then, there are weekends.

And for Dr. John Barry Talley, director of musical activities at the Naval Academy, it's going to be an unprecedented 72 hours.


On Sunday and Monday, Dr. Talley will take center stage for one of the academy's grandest musical traditions: the annual performances of the Christmas portion of Handel's "Messiah," presented this year in the newly refurbished Academy Chapel.

With four soloists and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra joining him, Dr. Talley will be conducting his 21st "Messiah" in this seasonal series that dates back nearly half a century.


"It's a grand old tradition", he says with pride.

" 'Messiah' is a big part of what our musical program at the academy is all about."

He believes passionately that such concerts are much more than a mere extracurricular frill for both his singer and his audience.

"I believe this institution has a definite responsibility to give its students an opportunity to become involved with the fine arts," he says.

"One day, most of these young people are going to have fleeting memories of their physics class, but I'll guarantee you they'll remember 'Messiah.'

"Our performances create impressions that these men and women will carry forever. It's an important part of a Naval Academy education, and I know many generations of midshipmen feel likewise."

As evidence of music's importance on campus, Dr. Talley points with pride to the work of his colleague Jeanne Kelly, founder of the academy's Women's Glee Club.

For the first time, the Lady Mids will outnumber the altos and vTC sopranos imported yearly from Hood College in Frederick.


"She's built quite a program," he says. "It's a testimonial to the job she's done."

But "Messiah" accounts only for Sunday and Monday. What of the rest of the weekend?

Well, on Saturday afternoon, Dr. Talley's 24-year-old daughter Laura will be married in the same chapel that will be the setting for Handel's masterpiece some 25 hours later.

A graduate of Oberlin College like her father, Laura is a law librarian in Washington.

She will marry David Geyer, a State Department researcher she met while both were singing in the Washington Choral Arts Society.

It's clearly a time of emotional memories for her father.


"Laura has been part of all this since she began hanging around the chapel when she was 3 years old," he recalls.

"She's sung in several of these 'Messiahs,' and she's even played 'Church Call' on her trumpet."

So how does a dad feel with a daughter's wedding on Saturday and the biggest concerts of the year on Sunday and Monday?

"It's like a great wave, inexorable, crashing toward the shore," he says, laughing.

"And there I am, riding the crest, writing checks as I go!"