Irish flutist James Galway is a superb interpreter of the classical flute repertoire and a consummate entertainer. His silky tone and masterful technique, charismatic personality, and varied programs appeal to audiences of all ages and musical tastes.
Galway was born on Carnalea Street in a working-class neighborhood of Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father, James, was a shipyard riveter, and his mother Ethel worked as a winder in a spinning mill in West Belfast. The Galways were a musical family: Galway’s father played the flute and accordion in local bands and his mother taught herself to play piano. Jimmy’s first instruments were a harmonica, an old violin, and a penny whistle, but it wasn’t until he picked up a flute at about age nine that he seriously began to practice. He took informal lessons from his father and paternal grandfather and learned to read music from the leader of a local flute band. When he was ten years old he entered three solo competitions in the Irish Flute Championships and won them all.
While a student at the Mountcollyer Secondary Modern School, Galway came to the attention of Douglas and Muriel Dawn, who set him on the path to a musical career. A flutist with the BBC Northern Ireland Symphony Orchestra, Muriel gave Galway lessons in the rudiments of flute playing. Douglas found him a job as an apprentice piano tuner, arranged for him to perform with the Belfast orchestras, and was instrumental in the Belfast Education Committee’s awarding the young flutist with a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in London. For three years Galway studied with renowned flutist John Francis before transferring to the Guildhall School of Music to study under Geoffrey Gilbert, whom Galway cites as one of the most important technical influences in his life. In the early 1960s Galway attended the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris, where he studied with Gaston Camelie, who also taught Jean-Pierre Rampai. Galway never completed a degree, however, because he failed to attend classes peripheral to his interests.
Upon his return to London, Galway played flute and piccolo in several orchestras: Sadler’s Wells Opera Orchestra, the Royal Opera House Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). In the late 1960s, while on a tour of the United States with the LSO, Galway met and took some lessons with the celebrated French flutist Marcel Moyse, who was then living in Vermont. His lessons with Moyse inspired Galway to strive for greater artistry—particularly a greater variety of tone colors—in his playing.
Born December 8, 1939, in Belfast, Northern Ireland; son of James (a shipyard riveter) and Ethel Stewart (a textile mill worker; maiden name, Clarke) Galway; first wife’s name, Claire; married second wife, Anna Christine Renggli, 1972; children: (first marriage) Patrick; (second marriage) Charlotte and Jennifer (twins). Education: Attended Royal College of Music; studied under Geoffrey Gilbert at Guildhall School of Music; studied under Gaston Camelie at Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique (Paris).
Worked as an apprentice piano tuner; played with the Wind Band of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon; played flute and piccolo in Sadler’s Wells Opera Orchestra, 1961-66, and the Royal Opera House Orchestra, 1965; played piccolo in the BBC Symphony Orchestra; principal flutist with the London Symphony Orchestra, 1966-67; with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, 1967-69; principal solo flute with Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, 1969-75; soloist, 1976—; has appeared as a guest performer on numerous recordings and television programs; teacher of music, 1976-77, and 1989—.
Awards: Order of the British Empire, 1977; received Grand Prix du Disque for his recording of Mozart concertos; presented record of the year awards from both Billboard and Cashbox magazines.
Addresses: Manager and publicist —ICM Artists, 40 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019.
Galway left the LSO to join the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and in 1969 he became principal flutist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the world renowned conductor Herbert von Karajan. As Galway had for a long time been unsatisfied with orchestral performing, and even working with such a celebrated orchestra and conductor did not fulfill his need to express himself more fully, he began to accept extra-orchestral engagements. Michael Emmerson, a talent scout who has since become involved in managing RCA Red Label records, spotted Galway and offered to manage his solo career. In the summer of 1975, with Emmerson’s encouragement, Galway struck out on his own. In his first year as a solo performer, Galway taught flute for a semester at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, toured widely, and made four records. By the end of that year it was obvious to everyone that Galway had found his niche.
Since then Galway has become one of the most popular soloists on the international music scene. He tours widely to enthusiastic crowds that include flute students, flutists, and amateurs of classical and popular music alike. Galway programs concerts with particular audiences in mind and performs on any one of nineteen handmade gold flutes, which have become his trademark, and a penny whistle. Not hesitant to talk to audiences or appear in the media, Galway’s lilting brogue, twinkling eyes, and quick wit are known to many who have seen him on “Live From Lincoln Centre,” “Sesame Street,” talk shows, or credit card commercials.
Galway’s lengthy discography includes most of the masterpieces of the flute repertoire as well as forays into country, folk, jazz, and modern popular music. His more than 30 RCA Victor recordings are bestsellers—he has one platinum and several gold albums to his credit—and his hit records with John Denver, Cleo Laine, and Henry Mancini have made him one of the most successful crossover artists of our time.
Ever attentive to the quality of his recorded works, Galway has refused to release albums that did not entirely satisfy him. His recording of the Mozart concertos, which won the Grand Prix du Disque, attests to his concern for quality. Although critics sometimes decry Galway’s recording of popular tunes, Galway cites a famous precedent. “My own model is [violinist] Jascha Heifetz,” he told Bob Porter in the Dallas Times Herald. “He recorded everything from Bach to ‘Ave Maria.’ He was the biggest influence on what I have done with my life.”
Since the flute repertoire is limited, Galway has transcribed pieces originally composed for other instruments, such as Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and commissioned new pieces by composers Joaquín Rodrigo and John Corigliano, among others.
The lifestyle of a celebrity on tour takes its toll. Galway had become known as a serious carouser, and after he underwent a crisis of conscience in 1987, he adopted a stricter lifestyle, checking into a health farm to lose weight. He also returned to a more regular practice regimen and decided to cut short his fledgling conducting career as too time-consuming. In 1989—after a twelve-year hiatus—he resumed teaching. He teaches in his home in Lucerne, Switzerland, and conducts masters classes in the cities where he performs. Galway is also co-authoring a book on flute performance and technique with Australian flutist and writer Andrew Richardson. What advice does Galway give his students? “Practice all the time, just non-stop practice, and listen to other people in the same business; establish where you’re at, where you’re going and what you’re going to do about it,” he told Patricia Harty of Irish America Magazine.
James Galway: An Autobiography, enlarged edition, Chivers, 1980.
Flute, London, 1982.
Released by RCA on Victor Red Seal
“Annie’s Song” and Other Favorites.
Bach Trio Sonatas.
Clair de Lune—The Music of Debussy.
The Classical James Galway.
Corigliano: Pied Piper Fantasy.
French Flute Concertos by Ibert, Chaminade, Poulenc, Faure, Charles Dutoit.
James Galway and the Chieftans in Ireland.
James Galway: Greatest Hits.
James Galway Plays Bach Flute Concertos — Concerto in A Minor, Concerto in E Minor, Suite No. 2 in B Minor.
James Galway Plays Mozart Concerto in C for Flute and Harp, Concerto in G.
James Galway Plays Schubert.
James Galway’s Christmas Carol.
(With various artists) James Galway’s “Music in Time.”
Italian Serenade Works for Flute and Guitar.
The Magic Flute of James Galway.
Man with the Golden Flute.
Mozart: Concerto No. 1 in G, Concerto No. 2 in D, Andante in C.
Mozart: The Two Flute Concertos.
The Pachelbel Canon and Others.
(With Cleo Laine) Sometimes When We Touch.
Sonatas for Flute and Piano.
“Song of the Seashore” and Other Melodies of Japan.
Telemann: Flute Concertos, Suite in A Minor, Concerto in G, Concerto in C.
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons.
Galway, James, Autobiography, enlarged edition, Chivers, 1980.
Baltimore Sun, March 18, 1987.
Bloomington Herald-Telephone, March 6, 1987.
Boston Herald, July 3, 1987.
Chicago Sun Times, April 23, 1989.
Dallas Times Herald, July 8, 1988.
Detroit Free Press, March 27, 1987.
Flute Talk, April 1989.
Gannett Westchester Newspapers, July 17, 1988.
Irish America Magazine, September 1986.
Music Magazine, February/March 1989.
New York Times, July 16, 1988.
Ovation, June 1987.
Portland Press Herald, March 15, 1987.
Raleigh News and Observer, April 2, 1989.
—Jeanne M. Lesinski
A master flutist whose playing style has become the measure by which others are judged, James Galway (born 1939) is credited with elevating the status, stature, and performance standards of his chosen instrument.
James Galway's illustrious musical career boasts a number of critical as well as popular successes. Even before he reached his teens, for instance, he had been named a champion flute player in Ireland. Later, after studying with flute masters in Paris and London, he performed with the London Symphony Orchestra and served for years as the principal flutist with both the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Galway then sought to increase public awareness and appreciation of the flute through various international tours and television programs. He has also reached out to a new generation by teaching master classes. As Galway declared in a 1994 interview with Philip Kennicott available online at www.futurenet.com, "I've set the standard…. I think I've inspired a lot of kids to really try to do something better with the flute."
Galway was born on December 8, 1939, in a working-class neighborhood of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He developed his interest in all things musical at a very early age. His father, a shipyard riveter who was also named James, was a flutist and accordion player in a local band, while his mother, Ethel, a textile mill worker, was a self-taught piano player. When he was a just a young child, Galway began to try out a variety of instruments, picking up the harmonica, violin, and penny whistle before settling on the flute, which he quickly decided was his favorite.
At about the age of nine, Galway began taking informal flute lessons from both his father and grandfather. He also learned how to read music from the leader of the local flute band. When he was ten, he entered an Irish Flute Championship contest and won the three solo contests he entered. By the time he turned 12, he knew he wanted his career to be in music.
Awarded Prestigious Scholarship
While attending Mountcollyer Secondary Modern School, Galway met Muriel and Douglas Dawn, both of whom made sure the promising youngster had every opportunity to realize his goals. Muriel Dawn, a flutist with the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) Northern Ireland Symphony Orchestra, taught him the basic skills involved in playing the flute. Douglas Dawn found him a job as a piano tuner's apprentice, sought out opportunities for him to perform with Belfast-area orchestras, and helped persuade the Belfast Education Committee to award Galway a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Galway studied for three years at the Royal Academy of Music under the tutelage of John Francis before he moved on to the Guildhall School for Music. There he was instructed by Geoffrey Gilbert, whom he credits with being one of the major technical influences in his career. The early 1960s saw Galway move to Paris and study under Gaston Crunelle at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique.
In between his studies and his appointments to various international orchestras, Galway married his first wife, Claire. They had one son. Galway married his second wife, Anna Renggli, in 1972. The couple had twin daughters.
Despite the fact that he never graduated from any of the musical academies he attended, Galway managed to impress a number of London-based conductors and easily found work in their orchestras and ensembles when he returned to the United Kingdom from Paris. His first job was with the Wind Band of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. He then moved on to the Sadler's Wells Opera Orchestra, where he played both the flute and piccolo. His next job was with the Royal Opera House Orchestra, once again as a flutist and piccolo player. Galway then joined the London Symphony Orchestra, serving as the principal flutist for the 1966-67 season before accepting the same position with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, also in London. He remained with the Royal Philharmonic for two seasons, resigning in 1969 to become the principal solo flutist for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Galway's tenure with the Berlin Philharmonic was not an especially happy one. Feeling unfulfilled and underutilized, he began accepting engagements that allowed him to perform apart from the orchestra. During the summer of 1975, with the encouragement of Michael Emmerson, a former talent scout who offered to become his manager, Galway resigned from the Berlin Philharmonic to seek his fortune as a full-time solo instrumentalist.
Gained International Prominence
The gamble paid off handsomely. Galway appeared in more than 120 concerts over the next year at venues throughout the world, including stints with all four of the major orchestras in England. He also recorded his first four albums and even found time to teach a semester course in advanced flute studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
In his solo work, Galway has always sought to broaden the traditionally limited classical repertoire of flute music by transcribing whatever captures his fancy. His new arrangements for the flute range from classical pieces originally written for other instruments (such as The Four Seasons by Vivaldi and Khachaturian's concerto for violin) to popular tunes of the day done in classic Galway style. Nothing is beyond his scope-jazz, country, show tunes, and the folk music of both Ireland and Japan all figure prominently in his repertoire. In addition, Galway often commissions new flute pieces from contemporary composers such as Lorin Maazel, Joaquin Rodrigo, and Thea Musgrave.
One of Galway's most famous arrangements is his cover of folksinger John Denver's "Annie's Song." Released in 1978, this highly acclaimed and wildly successful instrumental piece not only won him legions of new fans but also encouraged him to collaborate with other popular performers of the day, including singer Cleo Laine and composer Henry Mancini.
Yet as Kennicott notes, "Galway's high profile as a crossover artist, popular entertainer, and restless raider of popular classics not written for the flute, naturally alienates the purists. With dozens and dozens of recordings of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons, ' why would anyone want to hear it transcribed for flute? Galway argues that musical practice of the time included a great deal of shifting about among instruments, and that composers such as Bach regularly reworked material for different instruments. He's right of course, but the popularity of his crossover and transcription discs doesn't rest on any such historical premise. They're popular because Galway is performing them, and flute lovers are grateful for almost anything he performs."
Galway has further cemented his widespread appeal by making frequent television appearances. Besides his own specials, he has been featured on the critically acclaimed children's program Sesame Street and other American public television shows as well as a wide variety of regular network shows. And in 1989, Galway decided to resume teaching master classes in the flute. He works with students at his home in Switzerland and in many of the cities he visits while on tour.
Recordings Brought Acclaim
Ever the consummate perfectionist, Galway has typically refused to release any recording with his name on it until he was completely satisfied with the results. This fastidious attention to detail is in no small way responsible for the many honors he has garnered throughout his career. He was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque for his recordings of Mozart's concertos and also received kudos for his recordings of Vivaldi. His album sales have netted him several gold and platinum records. He has received record of the year awards from both Billboard and Cashbox magazines. In 1977, he was named a member of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), a commendation by Queen Elizabeth II that recognized Galway's musical contributions to society. And in 1997, Musical America named him musician of the year.
Given his tireless quest for innovation, his flair for improvisation, and his ability to secure critical acclaim as well as commercial success, Galway has unquestionably earned the distinction of being the premiere flutist of his generation. The charismatic performer is well aware of his appeal and makes good use of his abilities as a showman to broaden the audience for flute music. As he told Kennicott, "I know who's got the best chops-me."
Contemporary Musicians, Volume 3, Gale, 1990, pp. 87-89.
Galway, James, Autobiography, enlarged edition, Chivers, 1980.
"James Galway, " http://www.cameratapacifica.org/galway.html (March 3, 1998).
"The James Galway Flute Page, " http://www.classicalmus.com/bmgclassics/galway/bio.html (March 3, 1998).
"James Galway, " http://www.futurenet.com/classicalnet/artists/galway/interview.html (March 3, 1998).
James Galway is second only to Jean-Pierre Rampal as popularizer of the flute in the twentieth century; in the 1990s no flutist was better known than Galway. With impeccable classical credentials, he has ventured frequently into popular idioms with a musical flair and personal charm that have made him an international music celebrity on an instrument that supports few full-time soloists.
Galway started out playing the penny whistle as a small child before taking up the flute. At the age of ten, he won all three classes of the Irish Flute Championships, which got him a radio session on the BBC. After studies at the Royal College of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and the Paris Conservatory, he won jobs in the orchestras of Sadlers Wells Opera and the Royal Opera Covent Garden. He played piccolo with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and became principal flutist with the London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1969 he was appointed principal flutist of the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic.
In 1975 Galway took the unexpected step of resigning from the Berlin Philharmonic to venture out on a solo career. It was a risky decision, but in his first year he performed 120 concerts with some of the world's leading orchestras. Since then he has become a fixture on the international concert circuit and much in demand as a soloist. He has made more than fifty recordings, covering all of the standard repertoire. His recording of the Mozart Concerti earned him the Grand Prix du Disque.
Keenly interested in new music, he has commissioned and premiered dozens of works, both classical and pop, and has freely recorded both. At least some of his appeal is due to his recordings of pop songs. Several of his covers of pop tunes have made the European pop charts, and in 1978 he had an international hit with his recording of John Denver's "Annie's Song." He has had music written for him by Elton John, hosted his own TV series, James Galway's Music in Time, and took part in a historic performance of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" in 1991 in Berlin.
He has performed before the queen of England, several times by invitation at the White House, and in 1998 at the ceremony for that year's Nobel Peace Prize, a performance televised to a worldwide audience of millions. In 1997 he was named Musical America's Musician of the Year. In 1999 he became the principal guest conductor of the London Mozart Players and in 2001 was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
Galway's playing is known for its remarkable tonal range and smooth, clear sound; he's known as "the man with the golden flute." A crowd-pleaser with a showman's sense for the room, he seems to love entertaining as much as playing music; he has been known to pull out his penny whistle for a tune in the middle of a concert. He is unmatched among contemporary flutists for his sound, technical ability, and musicianship.
Annie's Song (BMG Classics, 1981); Flute Sonatas (BMG Classics, 1997); The Very Best of James Galway (RCA Victor, 2002).
J. Galway, James Galway: An Autobiography (New York, 1997).
Galway, James, famous Irish flutist; b. Belfast, Dec. 8, 1939. He took up the tin whistle at 7 and began playing the flute in a neighborhood flute band when he was 9. He then went to London on a scholarship, where he studied with John Francis at the Royal Coll. of Music (1956–59) and with Geoffrey Gilbert at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (1959–60); a 2nd Scholarship allowed him to proceed to Paris to continue his training with Gaston Crunelle at the Cons, and privately with Marcel Moyse and Jean-Pierre Rampal. He was a flutist in the orchs. of the Sadler’s Wells Opera (1961–66) and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden (1965), in London; after playing in the London Sym. Orch. (1966–67) and the Royal Phil, of London (1967–69), he was a member of the Berlin Phil. (1969–75). Thereafter he pursued a brilliant career as a flute virtuoso, making highly successful tours all over the world. In later years, he also took up conducting. He publ. James Galway: An Autobiography (London, 1978) and Flute (London, 1982). In 1977 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and in 1987 an Officier des Arts et Lettres of France. Galway’s repertory ranges over a vast expanse of music, including not only the classics and contemporary scores, but traditional Irish music and popular fare.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire