By Nancy Schiffer
Everyone loved the final Cay Topics luncheon at the Abaco Inn. Why? Partly because of the Abaco Inn’s great food and service, the company of 86 interesting women from Elbow Cay and Man-O-War, and a perfect Abaco day. But the main reason? Everyone loved the speaker, Dr. Barry Talley, Hope Town’s own choir director at St. James Methodist Church, who shared his passion and life’s work – music.
As a special surprise just before he began his remarks, a flash mob – women from the choir – serenaded Dr. Talley with a ballad, lyrics by Di Hunter, especially in his honour.
As a winter resident of Hope Town, Dr. Talley not only serves as director of the choir at St. James, he also plays the organ there, produces and performs in concerts for the community, and coaches a student from Every Child Counts. But the true measure of his extraordinary musical gifts and his lifelong dedication to music is Dr. Talley’s service for 36 years as Chairman of the Music Department of the U. S. Naval Academy.
Punctuated with hilarious stories describing his experiences at the Academy, Dr. Talley challenged the audience with his insights about the role of music in our lives, our communities and our society. Music is a measure of a healthy culture, he offered, and it infuses every aspect of our lives.
The US Naval Academy trains young men and women to become officers in the Navy and Marine Corps. Music, Dr. Talley explained, serves as a refuge and inspiration for them from their otherwise highly regimented Academy life.
According to Dr. Talley, participation in such activities also contributes to the students’ development as leaders. They learn how to care about the other students they are working with; how believe in a goal and embrace its challenges with joy and passion; and how to achieve the best possible result – not just an acceptable result, but the best possible result. Like Abaco’s Every Child Counts, Dr. Talley observed, the Naval Academy inspires a strong bond among their students. The lesson from Day One is: we are here for each other and we are stronger with each other.
Dr. Talley described the midshipmen (Naval Academy students) as clever, persistent and impressively talented. And shared amazing stories demonstrating these attributes – about a student trying to outrun an airplane he had missed and another student hitchhiking 35 miles after he’d missed his bus to a performance.
Dr. Talley was dedicated to his students, nurturing their talents, feeding their spirits, and gifting them with the sustaining power of music. During his tenure, the Men’s Glee Club achieved national prominence, and participation in this and other choral and instrumental groups grew to one fourth of the entire student population of the Academy.
These talented groups were sought after for performances across the United States and worldwide. The Naval Academy’s ensembles also provided talent for such televised events as presidential inaugural galas, “Christmas in Washington” specials, and Honors at the Kennedy Center. Their musical repertoire spanned religious and classical compositions, as well as such uniquely American music as Broadway hits, political and TV themes, and sea chanteys.
Dr. Talley not only ensured that their performances were exquisite, but also that they were “good, on time and easy” when invited to perform. Such experiences generated friendships with a broad mix of celebrities, from Julie Andrews to Audrey Hepburn to the Secretary General of the United Nations; and many humorous anecdotes, with which Dr. Talley delighted his Cay Topic audience.
Dr. Talley concluded by emphasizing the power of music and its profound importance to our very existence. Music is an essential life force that transports and transforms us, brings us together and enriches us. Music is everywhere, he reminded the group, starting with the beat of our mother’s heart.
Indeed, even without the actual music, Dr. Talley’s talk transported, inspired and enriched his audience.
A spirited question and answer period followed. One particularly intriguing question asked Dr. Talley to identify his favorite song.
“The one I’m working on at the moment,” he responded.
A huge thanks is given to the Cay Topics committee, Tom Hazel and the entire Abaco Inn staff and the ladies of Elbow Cay for a luncheon none will forget. A special shout-out to Kent LeBoutillier for the chocolate treble clefs and quarter notes decorating the pineapple/coconut ice cream served for dessert.