JAMES GALWAY AT THE NCH 05.10.2013-1-19-banner

Sir James Galway at the National Concert Hall, 5th of October 2013

Half chat show and half concert, the presentation night of Sir James Galway’s Lifetime Achievement Award in the National Concert Hall was an unusual mix of classical, big band, film music and ‘This Is Your Life’-style interviewing. Miriam O’Callaghan presented with guest appearances by Brian Kennedy, Barry Douglas and Paddy Moloney, while David Brophy led the RTE Concert Orchestra.

After Kennedy’s performance of Carrickfergus, Brophy and Sir James came together for a brilliantly invigorating rendition of Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major. Galway’s famous tone and strength shone through, his clarity and fire bringing an intensity to the concerto that is so often lacking. During both cadenzas, moments of silence were used to build suspense. Galway’s playful spirit came through, daring Brophy to push limits; there was a hint of a smile about both of them as the piece came to an end.

Immediately after the bows, Galway joined O’Callaghan on the couch where they discussed his golden flute, beginning his lessons with a singing teacher, and his performances with the likes of Pink Floyd and Elton John. Although many didn’t appreciate when Galway reduced his first teacher to a comment on her cleavage, overall his charisma and sense of humour made him extremely entertaining and a great balance to O’Callaghan, who came across as out of sorts on the stage—uncomfortable with both the situation and content of the interviews.

The Blackbird of Belfast Lough was a touching tribute to Seamus Heaney, included as a draft version to the one the pair had been collaborating on. Galway’s mournful flute was a beautiful match to the poetry. Both here and during the Lord of the Rings suite, Galway’s signature sound came through most strongly with his broad vibrato controlling the music.

Showcasing his abilities in a jazzier sphere, a Henry Mancini medley was next. There was no need to include a fairly standard performance of the Pink Panther when it was to be followed by a great pennywhistle jig and very entertaining Baby Elephant Walk, where he got the audience involved and showed some flair with scoops strewn throughout the piece.

Galway’s wife and fellow flautist Lady Jeanne Galway joined Sir James for a nicely contrasting Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca. Following this was a performance of David Overton’s Galway Fair, the couple looking like royalty while surrounded by students of local music colleges to show Galway’s dedication to encouraging the younger generations of flute players.

Rarely is an artist expected to work so hard at their own award ceremony, but Galway was well up to the task, jumping straight from conversation to playing with vigour and a smile. The audience were given a rare treat in the concerto; with Galway himself admitting it was likely one of his favourite performances of it and thanking Brophy and the orchestra for their continued commitment to the music at hand. The night on the whole was a clear success and the Awards committee could not be doubted in their choice—now it just remains to be seen who will be next year’s recipient.

Sir James Galway Photo Gallery

Photos: Aisling Finn