He is a flautist and conductor born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and nicknamed “The Man With the Golden Flute” because that’s what he plays.
He studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music in London. He later went to France to take further studies at the Paris Conservatoire, where one of his teachers was Jean-Pierre Rampal, and took private lessons with Marcel Moyse.
After entering into a career as a fulltime musician in the 1950s he performed with the Philharmonia Orchestra followed by the London Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, the Royal Philharmonic and the Sadler’s Well Opera.
In the late 1960s he went for an audition with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and in 1969 he found himself joining them as a member under the conductorship of Herbert von Karajan. After 6 years and some discord he decided to concentrate on his career as a solo musician and settled in Lucerne, Switzerland.
This would prove a wise move as he began receiving commissions by acclaimed contemporary composers such as David Amram, Malcolm Arnold, William Bolcom, John Corigliano and Joaquin Rodrigo among many others. He also performed with many of the top acts in popular music such as Ray Charles, Elton John, Henry Mancini, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder and appeared at the Berlin Wall concert with Pink Floyd.
He became a popular personality on the television and his fame as a virtuoso flautist spread throughout the world. In 1978 he topped the UK chart with his version of John Denver’s “Annie’s Song”. And entered the UK album charts in 1987 with The Chieftains on their collaborative effort In Ireland. More recently he was a performer on Howard Shore’s Oscar winning soundtrack of Lord of the Rings. Towards the end of the 2000s he had already sold more than 30 million copies of his albums and Sony released James Galway Celebrates 70 in honour of his birthday in 2009.
The albums he appears on are countless but a few of them include his own James Galway: Man With the Golden Flute, Song of the Seashore and Other Melodies of Japan, Pachelbel Canon & Other Favourites, James Galway’s Christmas Carol, Serenade, Dances for Flute, Wind Beneath My Wings, Galway at the Movies, Tango del Fuego and Galway: Seasons along with Noel by Canadian Brass, Celtic Spectacular by Erich Kunzel & The Cincinatti Pops, Beautiful Thing by Cleo Laine, Long Goodbye: Symphonic Music of Procol Harum by Procol Harum, Heart of the Matter by Kenny Rogers, Mozart: Flute Quartets with the Tokyo String Quartet,
He has performed as Principal Guest Conductor for the London Mozart Players and often tours with his third wife Jeanne, who is also a flautist. Together they also give flute masterclasses at their International Flute School in Switzerland.
He also holds the office of president for the charitable concern Flutewise, is a National Patron of the music fraternity Delta Omicron and is a co-founder of the Music Education Consortium, which concentrates on promoting music education in British schools. He is also involved as a patron with the Nystagmus Network that provides support for people with that eye condition, which he also suffers from. In 2013 he launched the online series of lessons called First Flute.
As an author he has published his autobiography and the books Flute and Jame’s Galway’s Music in Time.
Recognised for his contribution to music he was awarded with an OBE in 1977 and given a knighthood in 2001. He was presented with the President’s Merit Award by the Recording Academy in 2004, received the “Outstanding Contribution to Classical Music” Award at the Classical Brit Awards and was inducted in the Hollywood Bowl of Fame in June 2008. In 2014 he was presented with the Gramophone Lifetime Achievement Award,
James Galway Recordings Belfast Hornpipe (Traditional) RCA 09026-60917 (CD: Dances For Flute)
Here he is performing music from Lord of the Rings…