Sir James Galway will be turning 80 on Dec. 8, and he and his fans aren’t waiting to mark the milestone. The internationally renowned flutist is teaming up with flutist Lady Jeanne Galway, his wife, for a busy schedule of recitals and concerts between now and the big day.
Sunday’s event at Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater teams up the Galways with pianist Michael McHale. The program will include Francis Poulenc’s “Sonata,” Gabriel Faure’s “Fantasie Op. 79” and Cecile Chaminade’s “Concertino, Op. 107,” followed by Franz Doppler’s “Andante and Rondo Op. 25,” featuring both Galway and Lady Galway.
These works will be followed after intermission by F.J. Gossec’s “Tambourin,” Marin Marais’ “Le Basque,” Hamilton Harty’s “In Ireland Fantasy” and D. Overton’s “Irish Folk Songs,” which will include “Spinning Wheel,” “She Moved Through the Fair” and “The Star of the County Down.” Next is P. Morlacchi’s “Il Pastore Svizzero.” The program will conclude with Franz and Karl Doppler’s “Fantasie for Two Flutes & Piano, Op. 38,” with Lady Galway.
For this program, “we decided to use some of the music I learned before going to the Royal College of Music,” Galway said.
“They’re mostly virtuoso pieces,” Galway said, adding with a warm chuckle, “Every kid wants to play ‘The Flight of the Bumble Bee.’’’
Galway said he looks forward to returning to the Paramount. “I had a wonderful time there,” he said.
Sunday’s program of virtuosic pieces gives Galway a chance to display the versatility, nuance and energy of the flute, which has been an international favorite for generations.
“The flute has always been a very popular instrument,” Galway said. “At the time of Mozart, one person in 10 in England played the flute.”
The flute also was popular in Europe, where Frederick the Great’s enjoyment of the instrument spurred many of his subjects to study.
The popularity of the flute opened up lucrative opportunities for composers who wrote for the instrument, which, in turn, enriched the repertoire.
“He played the flute, so everybody emulated the king,” Galway said. “It was a fad that had a lot of money connected to it.”
Long before Galway took home a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement, became the first wind player to be knighted and helped countless children discover the rewards of music education, he was a gifted child from a family of flute players in North Belfast who won the junior, senior and open Belfast Flute Championships in one day as an 11-year-old.
“My dad played the flute. My grandfather played the flute, and he taught my dad and my uncle,” Galway said.
Galway and his wife will team up Sunday to perform the Doppler works. He enjoys performing with his wife, who also is an accomplished flutist.
“We’ve been playing together for so long,” he said. “My wife has a very good idea and conception of tone. She, in turn, is a very good teacher.”
Galway will celebrate his actual birthday with his wife on Long Island, and he looks forward to a special performance on Dec. 5 at Carnegie Hall. It’s a sentimental date, being both the birthday of Galway’s mother and the death date of W.A. Mozart.
In recognition or reaching the milestone birthday, Galway will be presenting 80 flutes as gifts to children around the world.
His advice for young musicians who yearn to learn the flute encourages a steady approach to building on important skills.
“Really, it’s a question of practicing, and learning your breathing,” Galway said. “Then you learn your scales, and you learn etudes to develop your musical sense. Learn the breathing, practice the long tones and practice your scales and studies.”