Sir James Galway OBE (born 8 December 1939) is a virtuoso flute player from Belfast, Northern Ireland, nicknamed "The Man With the Golden Flute". Following in the footsteps of Jean-Pierre Rampal, he became one of the first flute players to establish an international career as a soloist.
Galway went to London as a teenager to study the flute. He studied at the Royal College of Music under John Francis and then at the Guildhall School of Music under Geoffrey Gilbert. He then studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Gaston Crunelle and Jean-Pierre Rampal and also privately with Marcel Moyse.
After his education time he spent fifteen years as an orchestral player. Galway played with the Philharmonia Orchestra as it rose to prominence in the 1950s.
He then played with Sadler's Wells Opera, Covent Garden Opera, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He auditioned for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Herbert von Karajan, and was principal flute of that 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.
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.
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 still performs regularly and is one of the world's most well-known flute players. His recordings have sold over 30 million copies.
Galway performed for the Academy Award-winning ensemble recording the soundtracks of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy, composed by Howard Shore.
In June 2008, Galway was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame along with Liza Minnelli and B. B. King.
He currently performs on Nagahara flutes, as well as some Muramatsu Flutes. Conn-Selmer produces his line of flutes, Galway Spirit Flutes.
Galway is also president of a global organisation called Flutewise, a charitable organisation which supports young flute players, 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 was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1977, and was knighted in 2001, the first wind player ever to receive that honour. He is a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.
In the 1970s Galway moved from Berlin to Lucerne, Switzerland, the home town of his second wife, Anna (Annie) Renggli, one of the daughters of a well-known local architect. They had twins and a son. In 1978 he recorded for her an instrumental version of John Denver's "Annie's Song". it peaked at #3 in the UK Singles Chart. 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). They often tour together playing duets, accompanied by Phillip Moll on piano. In addition, they give master classes for flutists of all levels.
Galway is a dedicated 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. He also wears a large cross necklace, about which he says, "It's not jewelry. It's something that reminds me of what I should be doing and how I should be behaving." At the same time, he has a strong sense of humor and a readiness to have fun with his music and in conversation with others.
Galway has the eye condition nystagmus, and is a patron of the Nystagmus Network, a UK-based support group for people with the condition.
Galway's nephew, Martin Galway, is a musician famous for his work on Commodore 64 computer game music in the 1980s.