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Sir James Galway

Sir James Galway - nicknamed “The Man with the Golden Flute” - is a supreme interpreter of the classical flute repertoire and a consummate entertainer whose appeal crosses all musical boundaries. As the most televised and recorded classical artist performing today, Sir James has made himself a legend, a modern musical master whose virtuosity on the flute is equalled only by his limitless ambitions and vision. Through his extensive touring, with more than 30 million albums sold and his frequent international television appearances, Sir James has endeared himself to millions worldwide. Tomorrow night, Sir James will perform as part of a unique collaboration of three superb artists along with the most celebrated pianist of his generation Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the passionate and inspiring Russian cellist Nina Kotova as part of the 6th Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival. The festival runs until Thursday and features a varied programme of ballet, opera, classical and Arabic music, a visual arts component, a strong educational programme and a community programme reaching across all the Emirates. Tickets are available from the venue, The Emirates Palace. We asked Sir James about the forthcoming performance, musical collaborations, classical music and children and how he got started.... In Abu Dhabi, you’ll be performing as part of a trio with acclaimed Russian cellist Nina Kotova and virtuoso pianist Jean Yves Thibaudet. What should we look out for in the performance? Look out for the whole thing! All the pieces we’re going to play are good, so I couldn’t say which is the best. There’s one piece which we’re doing as a trio, a piece by Jean-Michel Damase which is really fun; I’m also looking forward to doing a Widor suite with Jean-Yves. What has been your favourite collaboration to date? That’s very hard to say. I just did three concerts with a piano player called Chris O’Riley who does a show called From the Top – he’s a really good piano player. Then, I collaborated with Tiempo Libre (a Grammy-nominated Latin band) and did a crossover recording of Claude Bolling’s music with the pianist and band leader Jorge Gomez: that was sensational. You’ve played with some of the world’s greatest orchestras and at some of the world’s famous concert venues. What has been your most memorable performance to date? Each performance has different moments; a different feeling to it. There were ones that were real fun, like the G7 at Buckingham Palace, or playing for the President of the USA or the Queen. Then, the opening of the Boston Symphony season or the New York Philharmonic season with James Levine and those guys; well, that’s an amazing thing to be asked to do. What’s been the proudest moment of your long career? What I’m really proud right now of is the condition I’m in. I still play the same as I did when I was younger – or better. I’ve been performing for fifty years - maybe even sixty years. Do flautists tend to have a peak, then? It depends on the individual, you know? Some journalists never open a dictionary – while some refer to dictionaries all the time and they’re always enlarging their vocabulary. Musicians are a bit like that – you can be one or the other. I’m the other. I’m always practising. A lot of people think you don’t need to practise now – but all you have to do is ask a ballet dancer when they last took a day off. You know, when you take days off, the muscles just… go their own way – and you have to start training all over again. I don’t do that. I’ve always practiced and kept in good shape. So you practice every day? Oh, sure. Yesterday, I practised almost the whole day. So what advice would you give to young musicians? Practice! But there’s another thing: I’d say don’t leave a career too late because, the way people look at the music business now, you stand a better chance if you’re, sort of… fifteen. Well - a better chance than you do when you’re 25. If you’re 35 - then you can forget it. People prefer young people dressed up in sweatshirts and T-shirts - you know? And if they can play, that’s good too. That’s the mould that music is being pushed into. You think everyone’s too obsessed with youth? No – it’s the commercialisation of music by the moguls who know how to manipulate the commercial side. Half of these people who are ‘crossover’ – they never cross over from anything. The only people who cross over are people like me, Kiri Te Kanawa and Pavarotti - people who are serious musicians and could actually sing a folk song or do something else. What more could be done to encourage young people to start playing classical music? Well I think they either want to do it or they don’t want to do it – you can’t encourage people to do things because you think they ought to be done. So how did you become a flautist yourself? My dad played the flute; my granddad played the flute; my uncle Joe played the flute. My granddad taught my uncle Joe who taught me. And I just got into it. What’s the first tune you learned to play? I can’t remember... ha! Probably God Save the Queen. What’s your favourite piece of all time? I don’t really have one because, you know… whatever you’re learning at the minute becomes your favourite piece. At the moment, I’m learning a flute concerto by Lorin Maazel and I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that it’s one of the great flute concertos of this century. You’re nicknamed ‘The Man With the Golden Flute’ – tell us about the flute you’ll be using in Abu Dhabi. It’s a Nagahara flute. It’s American-built but the owner of the factory is Japanese. Its appeal to me is that it has many possibilities of tone colour. You can play soft, loud; you can change the sound of this flute. Flutes have a lot to do with the character of the person who makes them. It’s like with painters – one painter will paint a sunset and another will paint a sunset and they’ll be completely different. What appeals to you depends on who’s making it. You’ve had a career so full of achievements – what else would you like to accomplish? I would like to go out on a high and not have a decline in my health or my playing. I’d like to maintain the standard I have now and then, one day, just say, “that’s it – I’ve had enough. I’m not going to do any more and I’m going to stay at home.” The travelling doesn’t really appeal to me any more, this getting in line and being processed – I feel like a bean in a pod. What I’m going to do in the future is open up an e-commerce website with flute lessons and flute paraphernalia. Are you looking forward to Abu Dhabi? I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never been to Abu Dhabi or experienced its culture and I’m looking forward to investigating everything.

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