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On the occasion of the flautist's 65th birthday,
James Galway talks to DAVID LIPP


Dubbed, 'the man with the golden flute', because of well, his fourteen karat gold flute encrusted with diamonds, Sir James Galway has a storied musical career. His cover of John Denver's Annie's Song catapulted him to crossover success in 1978. He has played with The Chieftans, covered Irish traditional folk songs, and pieces from movies including Titanic, Lord of The Rings, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and popular songs yet also plays classical and Broadway too. Not one to be pegged as just a classical performer; Galway is that yet so much more. I recently had a chance to talk with him regarding his upcoming appearance on Live From Lincoln Center on Wednesday 29 December 2004: tune in to PBS (check local listings).

Can you give me an idea of what you selected to play and why you have chosen them?

'The pieces I'm playing are by Henry Mancini. I'm playing The Pink Panther and the Baby Elephant Walk. I'm also playing music from Lord of the Rings, where I'll be accompanied by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.'

Most musicians stick to one genre and make a career out of it. You seem to turn that theory on its back and go in any direction that interests you. Do you do this to keep your listeners on their toes or do you just have a wide range of musical interests?

'I do this as diversity of style. Imagine one actor who was only a tragic actor. Never did anything else in his whole entire life except tragedy. Don't you think that would get to you? Don't you think people would say, "He's okay, but all he can do is that?" This is what I say about the other people, I say, they're okay, but all they can do is that. I mean I can play all this atonal stuff. I can play multi-phonic stuff, but don't. I can play jazz when it's necessary but I do not improvise. All the jazz things I've done are written out and that's what's called interpretation.

Tell me about your new album Wings of Song. What can your fans expect?

'It's a terrific album. Do you know this album made history in music? It was issued on 13 September and on the 20th it was number one on the charts. This is a whole total classical album. Annie's Song is on it and one by Irish Traditional (The Dawning of the Day).'

James Galway. Photo © Kasskara/DG
James Galway. Photo © Kasskara/DG

How did you get involved with Howard Shore and doing the music from Lord of the Rings?

'He asked me. It's very simple isn't it?'

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Copyright © 8 December 2004 David Lipp, New York, USA


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