New Interest: The Flute

This summer I discovered Sir James Galway’s 2009 memoir, The Man with the Golden Flute: Sir James, a Celtic Minstrel, and loved it! I heard of James Galway from “The Thistle and Shamrock” radio program, but did not know that much about him. I enjoyed his anecdotes of growing up in Belfast and playing for various flute bands. At the age of 11, he won two music contests, inspiring his father to give him the nickname “Mozart.” And he talked about his music teachers and all the people who influenced him, and his personal life. He has taught as various points in his career. He and his wife, Jeanne, conduct a master class.

He always had odd jobs in addition to music. In high school he enjoyed bookbinding, and was actually disappointed that he wasn’t hired on as an apprentice–his backup job while playing music. And he had some mind-numbingly boring jobs, such as sorting screws in a factory. Luckily, he got out of that one quickly. He also had a six-year stint with the Berlin Philharmonic, and after that wanted to branch out as a solo artist. His complete discography to this point was included in the back of the book. He records popular tunes as well as classical pieces, and has included music from Japan in his repertoire. Of course I’m going to watch the video of Vivaldi music he recorded.

I thought it would help to listen to some of his work while reading, so I went to the library and chose the CDs “Celtic Minstrel,” “Seasons” and “Concertos by Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773).” All were beautiful–by turns cheerful, reflective, and everything in between. My aunt jokes that flute music is not conducive to exercise sessions, but I listen anyway. Each time play the CDs, I hear something different. I received the double-CD set called “Meditations” for my birthday. These are all classical pieces, and something new jumps out at me every time I let the music wash over me.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston offers a free-twice monthly podcast of its concerts in the Tapestry Room. We were lucky enough to hear the musicians rehearse during our visit in 2007. The most recent selection is called “Voice of the Flute,” works for flute, harp, voice and other musicians. I’ll listen tomorrow.


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