Galway joins Hawai’i Symphony for two concerts

Nov. 15, 2013 | 1 Comment In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
--Courtesy Hawai'i Symphony Orchestra

Sir James Galway. (Courtesy Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra)

BY STEVEN MARK / smark@staradvertiser.com

FLUTE legend Sir James Galway, “The Man with the Golden Flute,” returns to the islands to perform with the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra this weekend, and at age 73 he’s still going strong.

HAWAI’I SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Featuring guest soloist Sir James Galway and guest conductor JoAnn Falletta

» Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave.
» When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17
» Cost: $32-$90
» Info: ticketmaster.com or 800-745-3000

He’s been celebrating the 35th anniversary of his first U.S. tour with a series of concerts on the mainland, earning praise for the “luscious tone” and “long legato lines” that the Washington Post admired recently.

Performing with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the concerts come full circle from that first tour, which still carries warm memories for him.

“I gave a spectacular in the Hollywood Bowl and then came straight to New York and played there,” said Galway, 73, in a phone call from Newport News, Va. “The orchestra back then, it was completely Irish except for one guy, who was French, but I think he had a French passport and he lived all his life and died in Ireland.”

Ireland is where Galway grew up loving the flute, listening to family members play and playing himself constantly at a young age. But he rejected the description of his dedication as “relentless,” preferring instead a more playful characterization.

“I was trying to get it right, and I used different steps,” he said. “The first step was a simple little tune, and the next step was a simple little tune with an F-sharp in it, and the next step had a C-sharp in it, in the key of D. I just kept doing these things until I could do really spectacular things. … I was really fascinated with it.”

Even though his career skyrocketed, he described that casually, too. “I got a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music until something turned up, and this is what turned up,” he said.

WHAT TURNED UP, in fact, is a career worthy of the knighthood bestowed upon him in 2001. Galway is the first wind musician to receive that honor.

He performed with the top orchestras in Great Britain, from the London Symphony Orchestra to the Royal Covent Garden Opera, then went on to play with the Berlin Philharmonic under the great Herbert von Karajan, who begrudgingly watched him strike out on a successful solo career.

Galway said he found the experience uplifting and enlightening.

“You have these epiphanies all the time, and you realize there is a better way of doing this,” he said. “You sometimes get inspired in the moment, and you try this note shorter or longer, or with an accent. That especially happened when I left the orchestra and started to practice on my own, for my own things.”

His 100-plus recordings, with sales of more than 30 million, have run the gamut of musical possibility, from classical composers to pop music like his Grammy Award-winning “Wind Beneath My Wings” and the soundtrack to “The Lord of the Rings” films. He’s also collaborated with artists as varied as Pink Floyd and jazz singer Cleo Laine.

Galway’s latest project is a series of online videos on playing the flute, at firstflute.com. Set to debut in December, the first videos will cover some simple ideas that many flutists, even fairly advanced ones, bypass.

“When you see violin players play, they have a certain way to hold the violin, and they all do that,” he said. “You see flute players, the teacher shows them how to put it together, and then start to try to blow it, but they don’t tell them how to stand, how to get a good posture, how to get a good support. … When I see these kids waggling around, like they’ve got some kind of dance going on, and it’s the same dance for everything they play, well, that doesn’t add up, does it?”

Galway credited his technique, attributed to the French flutists like his teacher Marcel Moyse, with enabling him to play for all these decades with no health problems, whereas other flutists have come down with repetitive stress injuries.

IN HAWAII, Galway will play Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major, one of the most popular pieces for flute.

“It’s a transcription of the oboe concerto,” Galway noted. “Mozart had an argument with the guy who commissioned it, so he transcribed it for flute, and he did a real good job of it. Real good arranger, Mozart.”

The concert also features Rimsky-Korsakov’s fanciful “Scheherazade” suite, a favorite among young audiences.

The work, inspired by the fable about the young sultana whose storytelling abilities save her life, was programmed to give symphony concertmaster Iggy Jang a chance to shine, but Jang said the work will show off other orchestral elements as well.

“The piece as a whole has some really magical moments,” he said. “It speaks volumes about the skills of Rimsky-Korsakov in his orchestration to attribute different colors and voices to whatever instruments he chooses.”

  • cellodad

    Wow! Galway and Falletta – two giant musical names