Sir James Galway

Sir James Galway has been hugely popular among flute players for half a century. His outstanding technique and musicality make him the yardstick by which we all measure ourselves and his warm personality and Irish charm make him the teacher we all wish we had.

I admit that I wasn’t always a fan of Mr. Galway. In fact I reluctantly accepted him as a serious musician when I went off to college to study music. My flute teacher had actually met and studied with him. Her studio sported a very large photo of herself standing with him. When I auditioned for her and came face to face with that photo, I figured that liking him was an academic requirement. But really, once I gave him a chance I found it to be an easy requirement to achieve.


Young James started playing flute as a lad in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He came from a family of modest means, but his father played in the local flute bands, so James was always surrounded by music. Eventually he came by his first flute and joined the flute bands himself. A combination of natural aptitude and zealous practicing allowed him to advance quickly. It wasn’t long before he started to get noticed by regional teachers and professionals. Mr. Galway managed to find the training he needed in spite of his limited resources.

Galway’s first private teacher in Belfast was Muriel Downs. Ms. Downs introduced him to the French style of flute playing. She also introduced him to Moyse’s Exercices Journaliers and De la Sonorité. To this day Sir James practices Moyse daily.

Still a teenager and advancing rapidly, James moved to London to study on scholarship with John Francis at the Royal College of Music then subsequently with Geoffrey Gilbert at the Guildhall School of Music. In 1960 Mr. Galway received a grant to study at the prestigious Paris Conservatory where he completed his studies with Gaston Crunelle.


Galway started his professional career upon leaving the Paris Conservatory in 1961 and returning to London. He played first flute in a number of orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, the London Symphony, Sadler’s Wells Orchestra, Covent Garden and the BBC Symphony. In 1969 he auditioned for the post of first flute in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, the same position once held by Jean-Pierre Rampal and currently held by Emmanuel Pahud. Mr. Galway remained with the Berlin Philharmonic until 1975 when disagreements with director Herbert von Karajan and continuing conflicts with his solo performances led him to leave the orchestra to pursue a career as a soloist.

Galway’s solo career has spanned nearly four decades and taken him to all corners of the world. In his seventies he still maintains an exhausting concert schedule, touring regularly throughout Europe, North America and Japan. Over the course of his long career, Mr. Galway has recorded more than five dozen albums. He’s covered virtually the entire traditional flute repertoire and has even added to it by commissioning new works. In addition to the classics, his discography is filled with popular tunes, a few jazz works and even some Japanese music.

Sir James has been twice honored by Queen Elizabeth II, first in 1979 with the Order of the British Empire and again in 2001 with Knighthood.

Sir James makes his home in Switzerland with his third wife, Lady Jeanne Galway. Lady Jeanne is herself an accomplished flutist having studied at the Mannes College of Music in New York City. Lady Jeanne tours with her husband and regularly shares the stage with him. Together they host an annual master class in Wiggis, Switzerland.

I’ve been lucky enough to hear Sir James in concert twice. Both times were amazing experiences. My husband tells me I had a big grin pasted on my face the entire time. If Sir James and Lady Jeanne ever return to Minneapolis, you can count on me (and my grin) to be in the audience. In the mean time, I have my recordings to enjoy.

Sir James Galway - Discography

Celebrating 70: A Collection of Personal Favorites (2009)

Vivaldi- Concerti for Flute (2008)

O'Reilly Street (2008)

My Magic Flute (2006)

Ich war ein Berliner (2006)

The Essential James Galway (2006)

Wings of Song (2004)

Music for my Little Friends (2002)

The Very Best Of James Galway (2002)

A Song Of Home: An American Musical Journey (2002)

Hommage a Rampal (2001)

Love Song (2001)

Sixty Years--60--Sixty Flute Masterpieces Collection (1999)

Unbreak My Heart (1999)

Winter's Crossing (1998)

Tango Del Fuego (1998)

Serenade (1998)

Meditations (1998)

Greatest Hits Vol. 3 (1998)

Flute Sonatas (1997)

Legends (1997)

James Galway Plays Lowell Liebermann (1997)

Music For My Friends (1997)

James Galway Plays The Music Of Sir Malcolm Arnold (1996)

The Celtic Minstrel (1996)

Bach Vol. 2 Trio Sonatas (1995)

Mozart Concerto for Flute and Harp, Concerto No. 1 and Concerto No. 2 (1995)

The French Recital (1994)

The Lark In The Clear Air (1994)

Wind Of Change (1994)

Pachelbel Canon (1994)

Bach Sonatas (1993)

The Classical James Galway (1993)

Seasons (1993)

Dances For Flute (1993)

Danzi (1993)

The Magic Flute (1992)

At The Movies (1992)

Mozart Concerto for Flute and Harp and Sonatas for Flute and Piano (1992)

Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1992)

Mozart Flute Quartets (1991)

The Wind Beneath My Wings (1991)

In Dulci Jubilo (1991)

Italian Flute Concertos (1991)

J.S. Bach Suite No. 2 Concerto for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord (1991)

Over The Sea To Skye (1990)

Quantz 4 Concertos (1989)

The Enchanted Forest (1988)

Greatest Hits (1988)

James Galway Plays Beethoven (1988)

J.S. Bach Suite No. 2 Concerto - Trio Sonatas (1987)

Christmas Carol (1986)

In Ireland (1986)

In The Pink (1984)

James Galway Plays Mozart (1984)

Nocturne (1983)

Annie's Song (1981)

Song Of The Seashore (1979)

Mozart Concerto No. 1, Andante and Concerto for Flute and Harp

Sometimes When We Touch

Vivaldi The Four Seasons

Man With The Golden Flute (1982)

Out of Circulation Albums

The Concerto Collection (1990)

C.P.E. Bach 3 Concertos (1989)

James Galway Plays Giuliani (1988)

Mercadante Concertos (1987)

The Wayward Wind (1982)

James Galway Plays Khachaturian

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