James Galway
Galway in 2013
Galway in 2013
Background information
Born (1939-12-08) 8 December 1939 (age 84)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
GenresClassical, Celtic, pop
Occupation(s)Flute player
Years active1950s–present
LabelsRCA Red Seal, Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Classics
Spouse(s)3rd wife, Jeanne, Lady Galway (née Cinnante)

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] After several years working as an orchestral musician, 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

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. Raised as a Presbyterian and 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. [1][4][5][6][7]

Education and career

Galway was educated at Mountcollyer Secondary Modern School in Belfast.[8][9] He left school at the age of fourteen and worked as an apprentice to a piano repairer for two years.[4]

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 briefly studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Gaston Crunelle. While in Paris, he asked for lessons from the celebrated French flute player Jean-Pierre Rampal, who offered him advice on his playing, but felt he was already too good a flute player to need lessons from either Rampal or the conservatory. He left Paris to take up his first orchestral flute-playing job at Sadler's Wells Opera in London.[4][10]

He went on to spend fifteen years as an orchestral player.[11] In addition to Sadler's Wells, he played with Covent Garden Opera, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.[11] 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.[12]

In 1982 Galway was the featured guest star on the Andy Williams Early New England Christmas special, broadcast on CBS.

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.[13]

Galway still performs regularly and is one of the world's best-known flute players. His recordings have sold over 30 million copies.[14]

Galway and his wife Jeanne at the 2007 New Year's Eve concert at Culture and Convention Centre, Lucerne

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.[15]

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,[11][16] 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 has been an Ambassador for the National Foundation for Youth Music, a UK charity.[17]

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1977 Silver Jubilee and Birthday Honours,[18] and was knighted for services to music in the 2001 Birthday Honours,[11][19] the first wind player ever to receive that honour.[20]

Galway is a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity,[21] and an ambassador of the UK charity Help Musicians.[22]

In December 2013, Galway launched First Flute, an online interactive series of lessons for beginning flute students of all ages.[23]

He received the 2014 Gramophone Lifetime Achievement Award.[24]

Personal life

Galway has been married three times. His first marriage, to a French woman, 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][13]

After this divorce, he moved to Meggen, Switzerland, a village next to Lucerne, where he resides now with his third wife, the American-born flute player Jeanne Galway (née Cinnante), whom he married in 1984. They often tour together, playing duets. In addition, they give masterclasses and lectures.[25][26]

Galway is a devout Christian who visits various types of churches while travelling (as long as they are not – in his view – modern and "happy-clappy"), and prays before his concert performances.[27] 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.[28] In December 2009, he fell down a flight of stairs at his home, fracturing his left wrist and breaking his right arm.[29]

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 whom Galway blamed for fostering the divisions that led to The Troubles. His comments were criticised by prominent Unionist politicians, among them Sammy Wilson.[30] 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] He did, however, accept substantive British honours, first an OBE, and later a knighthood.[31]

His younger brother, George (1940–2020), was a jazz musician (clarinet, flute, and saxophone) and teacher based in Manchester, England.[32][33] 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. ^ a b 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. ^ Epstein, Helen (28 January 1979). "THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN FLUTE". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c d 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. ^ Contemporary Musicians. Gale Research, Incorporated. 1989. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-8103-2213-4.
  9. ^ "Grieving: Sir James Galway". Belfasttelegraph. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  10. ^ Rampal, Jean-Pierre (1989). Music, My Love. Random House. p. 178. ISBN 0-394-56578-9. He wanted to take lessons with me... visit me on the Avenue Mozart so that I could hear him play... I did little more than encourage him and comment briefly on his playing. I wouldn't call the advice I gave him that of a teacher to a pupil, because he was so good that he didn't need to study at the Conservatory.
  11. ^ 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. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0.
  12. ^ Galway, James (1978). An Autobiography. Chappell. p. 186. ISBN 978-0903443302.
  13. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London, UK: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 221. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  14. ^ Profile, npr.org, 10 April 2011; accessed 29 July 2015.
  15. ^ Heckman, Don (23 June 2008). "B.B. King, Liza Minnelli at Hollywood Bowl". Los Angeles Times.
  16. ^ Official website of Flutewise
  17. ^ "Celebrity supporters". National Youth Music Foundation. Archived from the original on 31 August 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  18. ^ United Kingdom: "No. 47234". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 June 1977. p. 7091.
  19. ^ "No. 6253". The Belfast Gazette. 15 June 2001. p. 637.
  20. ^ Limelight, October 2010, p. 19
  21. ^ "National Patrons & Patronesses". Delta Omicron. Archived from the original on 17 March 2008. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  22. ^ "Our Patron and Ambassadors". Help Musicians. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  23. ^ Galway, James. "First Flute". Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  24. ^ "Flautist Sir James Galway wins lifetime award". BBC News. 18 September 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  25. ^ "Lady Jeanne Galway". Archived from the original on 1 October 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  26. ^ Torres, Chole. "So I Married A... Knight". Hitched. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  27. ^ Profile of James Galway on PBS's Religion and Ethics News Weekly
  28. ^ "What is nystagmus?". Nystagmus Network. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008.
  29. ^ McIlwaine, Eddie (31 March 2010). "James Galway back on the stage after injury". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  30. ^ Williamson, Claire (5 June 2015). "Ian Paisley indirectly responsible for killings during Troubles, says flautist Sir James Galway". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  31. ^ Facts re Sir James Galway, OBE, classicfm.com. Accessed 21 November 2022.
  32. ^ "George Galway: RIP 4th Oct 2020". Jazz Northwest. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  33. ^ "The obituary notice of George Galway". Manchester Evening News. 11 October 2020. Retrieved 3 September 2021.