Galways celebrate Irish legacy

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

Nothing says St. Patrick's Day like Sir James Galway. Lucky for Washington, the Washington Performing Arts Society welcomes him and Lady Jeanne Galway to the Kennedy Center with a rich program of music that showcases their golden flutes and the traditions of James Galway's homeland.

"When I plan a tour, I like to give it a name," he said. "This time I called it the Legacy Tour because I wanted to show the music that's dear to my heart. It's always fun to play with my wife because there's so much electricity between us. We're accompanied by Irish pianist Michael McHale, who was recommended by a student of mine who worked with him. When they arrived early at a church where they were scheduled to perform, they discovered that the piano was a halftone flat. Rather than panic, Michael simply transposed the music. He is an exceptional musician."

The same is true of Lady Galway, who came to Sir James' attention at a master class in New York City. The connection was immediate, and 28 years later they are partners in both marriage and music. Together they tour the world when they are not relaxing at their home in Switzerland. In November, they will return to the area for a concert at the George Mason University Center for the Arts with the Irish Chamber Orchestra.

The Kennedy Center program opens with Mozart's Quartet for Flute and Strings, featuring Sir James and a string trio accompaniment. That is followed by his pensive, tranquil treatment of Claude Debussy's "Claire de Lune," the "Rigoletto" Fantasie for Two Flutes arranged by 19th-century flute virtuosos Franz and Karl Doppler, and Galway's own arrangement of the "Carmen" Fantasy by flutist Francois Borne adapted from Bizet's opera. These are favorite selections from his many popular recordings. No other classical artist in history approaches him in the number of recordings produced.

Onstage
WPAS presents Sir James Galway and Lady Jeanne Galway with Michael McHale
» Where: Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW
» When: 4 p.m. Sunday
» Info: $29 to $85; 202-467-4600, 800-444-1324; kennedy-center.org

Fans of traditional Irish music will not be disappointed. The man who grew up in Belfast and began his illustrious career playing on a wooden flute has saved his favorite folk tunes and dances for the grand finale. To everyone's delight, he will execute some joyful airs on his beloved tin whistle, perhaps "Pennywhistle Jig" from the film "The Molly Maguires," or "Baby Elephant Walk," both by the composer Henry Mancini, Sir James' friend and frequent collaborator.

While in Washington, Sir James is scheduled to present a master class, one of the pleasures he enjoys on every tour. Each summer, he and Lady Galway hold the Galway Flute Festival on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland. This is an opportunity for students of all ages from around the world to meet and receive instruction from great flutists.

"Our master classes have the highest standards in the world," he said. "Denis Bouriakov, the principal flutist with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, played for me when he was only 12. We need an alumni section on our website because so many of those who have gone through our program are now professionals."

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