James Galway

James Galway
James Galway and his wife, Jeanne Galway, performing in the 2007 New Year's Eve concert at the Culture and Convention Centre, Lucerne.
James Galway and his wife, Jeanne Galway, performing in the 2007 New Year's Eve concert at the Culture and Convention Centre, Lucerne.
Background information
Birth nameJames Galway
Born (1939-12-08) 8 December 1939 (age 81)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
GenresClassical, Pop
Occupation(s)Flute player
InstrumentsFlute, Tin whistle
Years active1950s–present
Associated actsSadler's Wells Opera
Covent Garden Opera
London Symphony Orchestra
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
London Mozart Players
The Chieftains

Sir James Galway, OBE (born 8 December 1939) is an Irish[1][2] virtuoso flute player from Belfast, nicknamed "The Man with the Golden Flute".[3] He established an international career as a solo flute player. In 2005, he received the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music at the Classic Brit Awards.

Early life and education

Galway was born in North Belfast as one of two brothers. His father, who played the flute, was employed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard until the end of the Second World War and spent night-shifts cleaning buses after the war, while his mother, a pianist, was a winder in a flax-spinning mill. Surrounded by a tradition of flute bands and many friends and family members who played the instrument, he was taught the flute by his uncle at the age of nine and joined his fife and drum corps. At the age of eleven Galway won the junior, senior, and open Belfast flute Championships in a single day. His first instrument was a five-key Irish flute, and at the age of twelve or thirteen, he received a Boehm instrument. He left school at the age of fourteen and worked as an apprentice to a piano repairer for two years.[4][5][6][7]

He subsequently studied the flute at the Royal College of Music under John Francis and at the Guildhall School of Music under Geoffrey Gilbert. He then studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Gaston Crunelle and Jean-Pierre Rampal and privately with Marcel Moyse.[citation needed]


After his education he spent fifteen years as an orchestral player.[8]

He has played with Sadler's Wells Opera, Covent Garden Opera, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.[8] He auditioned for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Herbert von Karajan and was principal flute in the orchestra from 1969 to 1975. To Karajan's surprise and dismay, after a period of some disagreement, Galway decided that he would leave to pursue a solo career.[9][page needed]

In addition to his performances of the standard classical repertoire, he features contemporary music in his programmes, including new flute works commissioned by and for him by composers including David Amram, Malcolm Arnold, William Bolcom, John Corigliano, John Wolf Brennan, Dave Heath, Lowell Liebermann and Joaquín Rodrigo. The album James Galway and The Chieftains in Ireland by Galway and The Chieftains reached number 32 in the UK Albums Chart in 1987.[10]

Galway still performs regularly and is one of the world's best-known flute players. His recordings have sold over 30 million copies.[11]

In 1990, he was invited by Roger Waters to play at The Wall – Live in Berlin concert, held in Potsdamer Platz; he played Pink Floyd's songs "Goodbye Blue Sky" and "Is There Anybody Out There?". Galway performed for the Academy Award-winning ensemble recording the soundtracks of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, composed by Howard Shore. In June 2008, he was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame along with Liza Minnelli and B. B. King.[citation needed]

He performs on Nagahara flutes, as well as some Muramatsu Flutes. Conn-Selmer produces his line of flutes, "Galway Spirit Flutes".

Galway is president of Flutewise, a global charitable organisation that supports young flute players,[8][12] run by Liz Goodwin. In 2003 he formed the Music Education Consortium together with Julian Lloyd Webber, Evelyn Glennie, and Michael Kamen to pressure the British Government into providing better music education in schools. He is an Ambassador for the National Foundation for Youth Music, a UK charity.[13] He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1977, and was knighted in 2001,[8] the first wind player ever to receive that honour.[14] He is a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.[15]

In December 2013 Galway launched First Flute, an online interactive series of lessons for beginning flute students of all ages.[16]

He received the 2014 Gramophone Lifetime Achievement Award.[17]

Personal life

Galway has been married three times. His first marriage, to a Frenchwoman, produced a son. He married his second wife, Anna (Annie) Renggli, a daughter of a well-known Swiss architect, in 1972, and moved from Berlin to Lucerne, Switzerland, her hometown. The couple had twin daughters and a son. In 1978 he recorded for her an instrumental version of John Denver's "Annie's Song". It peaked at no. 3 in the UK Singles Chart.[5][10]

After their divorce, he moved to Meggen, Switzerland, a village next to Lucerne, where he resides now with his third wife, the American-born Jeanne Galway (née Cinnante), whom he married in 1984. They often tour together, playing duets. In addition, they give master classes.[18][19]

Galway is a devout Christian who visits various types of churches while travelling (as long as they are not modern and "happy-clappy") and prays before his concert performances.[20] He also wears a cross pendant, about which he says, "It's not jewellery. It's something that reminds me of what I should be doing and how I should be behaving."

In August 1977, Galway was run over by a speeding motorcycle in Lucerne, breaking his left arm and both legs and required a four-month hospital stay.[4][5] He has the eye condition nystagmus, and is a patron of the Nystagmus Network, a charity that supports people with the condition.[21] In December 2009, he fell down a flight of stairs at his home, fracturing his left wrist and breaking his right arm.[22]

Appearing on The Nolan Show in June 2015, Galway stated that he views his national identity as Irish. He was critical of the actions of the Northern Irish government during his childhood, and singled out prominent Unionist figures such as Ian Paisley for fostering the division that led to The Troubles. His comments were criticised by prominent Unionist politicians, among them Sammy Wilson.[23] Describing Northern Ireland as "the British-occupied part of Ireland", Galway further elaborated he would like "Ireland to be Ireland" and that when people ask him where he comes from he says "Ireland" and when asked if he is "Irish", he replies affirmatively.[2]

James's younger brother George Galway (born Belfast, 23 December 1940) is a jazz musician (clarinet, flute, and saxophone) and teacher based in Manchester, England. George's elder child and James's nephew, Martin Galway, is a musician known for his work on Commodore 64 computer game music in the 1980s.[citation needed]


NOTE: All release dates for non-compilations below are taken from the liner notes for The Man with the Golden Flute – The Complete RCA Collection (71 CDs and 2 DVDs box set) (2014).



  1. ^ Ferguson, Amanda (5 June 2015). "Ian Paisley planted thoughts of violence, says James Galway". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  2. ^ a b "James Galway: Ian Paisley Sr indirectly "responsible" for killings in Northern Ireland". BBC. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  3. ^ "THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN FLUTE". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b Bigio, Robert (December 2009). "Sir James Galway at seventy". Pan. British Flute Society. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Hauptfuhrer, Fred (24 July 1978). "The pied piper picked a peck of pop plaudits, but James Galway is a hero of the classical flute too". People. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  6. ^ "Thoughts on Flutes and Teaching : Buying a flute and how I came by the diamonds on the way". James Galway's website. 25 August 1999. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  7. ^ Hughes, Kieran (18 June 2012). "A sort of homecoming for the man with the golden flute". North Belfast News. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d O’Loughlin, Niall; Wigmore, Richard (2001). "James Galway". Grove Music Online (8th ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.10595.
  9. ^ Galway, James (1978). An Autobiography. Chappell. ISBN 978-0903443302.
  10. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London, UK: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 221. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  11. ^ Profile, npr.org, 10 April 2011; accessed 29 July 2015.
  12. ^ Official website of Flutewise
  13. ^ "Celebrity supporters". National Youth Music Foundation. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  14. ^ Limelight, October 2010, p. 19
  15. ^ "National Patrons & Patronesses". Delta Omicron. Archived from the original on 17 March 2008. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  16. ^ Galway, James. "First Flute". Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  17. ^ "Flautist Sir James Galway wins lifetime award". BBC News. 18 September 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  18. ^ "Lady Jeanne Galway". Archived from the original on 1 October 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  19. ^ Torres, Chole. "So I Married A... Knight". Hitched. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  20. ^ Profile of James Galway on PBS's Religion and Ethics News Weekly
  21. ^ "What is nystagmus?". Nystagmus Network. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008.
  22. ^ McIlwaine, Eddie (31 March 2010). "James Galway back on the stage after injury". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  23. ^ Williamson, Claire (5 June 2015). "Ian Paisley indirectly responsible for killings during Troubles, says flautist Sir James Galway". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  • Galway, James (1978). An Autobiography. London: Chappell and Company. ISBN 0-340-24721-5.
  • Galway, James; W. Mann (1982). James Galway's Music in Time. London: Mitchell Beazley. ISBN 0-85533-382-0.
  • Galway, James. (1982). Flute. Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides. London: Macdonald. ISBN 0-356-04711-3 (cloth); ISBN 0-356-04712-1 (pbk.) New York: Schirmer Books. ISBN 0-02-871380-X Reprinted 1990, London: Kahn & Averill London: Khan & Averill ISBN 1-871082-13-7

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