The 1992 incarnation of the Christmas portion of Handel's "Messiah" at the U.S. Naval Academy was a spirited, enjoyable affair.
This year, conductor John Barry Talley didn't spare the horses. With the exception of a rather stately "And the Glory of the Lord," his tempos were downright zippy. Handel's immortal choruses were delivered with infectious energy by the men and women of the Academy Glee Club and the sopranos and altos imported from Hood College in Frederick.
In contrast to "Messiah's" expansive choral interludes, Mr. Talley scaled the solos down to intimate Baroque size, and his excellent soloists (what a soprano!) didn't hesitate to embellish their vocal lines with stylish ornamentation in the authentic 18th-century manner.
There were some ragged moments as tempos surged too far forward ("O Thou That Tellest" and the "Hallelujah" nearly came unglued in spots), but the cumulative effect was colorful, eminently musical and did admirable service to Handel's genius.
This year's "Messiah" also provides an opportunity to reflect on the importance of such concerts since the Navy music program -- Glee Club included -- is under attack by Academy brass.
Music, apparently, is not cost effective.
Well, of course it isn't. Neither are football teams, lacrosse programs, the English, history and philosophy departments or the "Ring Dance," for that matter.
Let's face it: If the matriculation of functional ensigns is the sole purpose for its existence, the Naval Academy itself isn't cost effective.
But, thankfully, a decision has been made in this country to graduate men and women from our service academies, not mere ensigns and lieutenants. And the erudition and vision of America's greatest military leaders has consistently confirmed the wisdom of this choice.
We send best wishes to the talented young men and women of the Naval Academy Glee Club and to their conductors, Barry Talley and Jeanne Kelly.
Here's hoping you survive the latest onslaught from the jock-ocratic bean counters who pop up on the banks of the Severn with such distressing regularity.
May Handel's "Messiah" be an Academy tradition that will reign forever and ever. Hallelujah.