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The Flute returns

img  Tobias

It's easy to find superlatives for this man: He is nothing short of the most prolific Classical artist out there, has sold a staggering 30 Million records and continues to contribute to projects of the grandest scale (his performance on the 12-hour soundtrack of Lord of the Rings merely being the most recent one). But Sir James Galway has always despised of journalists who write articles based on a few quotes, catchy phrases and superficial industry facts. So we'll go for a slightly more daring approach and claim that what makes Galway so special are two things: His utter and personifed love for the flute and the fact that he is a representative of everything that was "good" about the "old times".

Let's start with his instrument, because that's where it starts for Sir James as well. If you have a look at the few interviews available on the net, you'll quickly discover that it doesn't really matter where conversations start off - they'll always lead to detailed accounts of which flutes he has played, when he played them and what they meant to him. Obviously, as his fame soared and his collection surpassed the 100-flute marks, not every single one could captivate his mind in quite the same way. But his love for these slender tubes has never died off. He also likes to talk about his training methods, which concentrate on scales (and scales, and scales!), as well as purity of intonation. What really distinguishes him from most other players is the fact that he focuses on the short notes, rather than the long ones, giving each one special care and attention while playing it. Quite possibly, this approach can be compared to Eastern philosophy, where a single note may die off quickly, but stands on its own and is awarded highest importance. No matter where Galway may be, he'll always practise 2-3 hours a day. There's no escaping the flute, it's all around him, it's in his thinking and in everything he does.

Then there's his love for discipline, dedication and preparation - values often considered to derive from long gone era. It is highly entertaining to read about Galway taking over from a conductor during orchestral repetition (the man wanted to check on "acoustics") and then about him insisting on taking over from him on the actual performance as well - because the conductor "wasn't prepared". To him, a day starts with the flute and ends with it - there's no method or "working up to it", there's just knowing your instrument and then trying to do better than anyone else. There's a lot of fun to be had when listening to his interviews on "The Galway Network", an internet page which tries to teach aspiring flutists about how to improve - but they are always centered around how an individual came to chose for the flute and how they pursued their vision. Galway has taken on the internet, but he remains in his own, timeless, cosmos. Just like Fischer-Dieskau, his ideals are not based on terms like "modern" or "old school" - but on what he truly believes in. Some may feel his thoughts dated (such as on "the right time to clap"), but Galway's endeavours to popularise modern composers and his collaborations with artists such as Paul Simon and Elton John should teach them otherwhise.

Hailing from Belfast, James Galway has always had a special relationship with the United States, praising its audiences as "unconventional, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and still critical". Now, for the first time in twenty years, he is returning there on a huge tour as both a conductor and a soloist. Accompanying him will be his wife (excellent flutist Lady Jeanne Galway) and the Polish Chamber Orchestra. During February and March of next year, the musicians will be hitting a total of 22 cities, performing a program based solely on Mozart. To make things complete, two new CDs will be available at about the same time, which will see him play with harpist Catrin Finch among others. We'll keep you posted as more news trickles in and present the complete tour dates soon.

Sir Games Galway is no enigma and has more than once spoken out against being called a legend (which he referred to as "journalistic incest"). He's just one of today's greatest musicians, one of the most brilliant flutists of all time and one of the most convincing examples of where total dedication can get you. If you do want to give him a nickname, go for the one he least dispises: "The Man with the golden flute" - simply put, it's based on facts: Galway has a few multiple karat-instruments at home.

Homepage: Sir James Galway / The Galway Network
Source: Sir James Galway at New Flute Generation
Source: Sir James Galway at Suite 101

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