James Galway – Christmas Carol (1986)

FrontCover1.jpgSir James Galway is internationally regarded as both a matchless interpreter of the classical repertoire and a consummate entertainer. With his unique sound, superb musicianship and dazzling virtuosity, he has a charismatic appeal that crosses all musical boundaries and has made him one of the most respected and sought-after performing artists of our time. He also devotes much of his free time to his duties as President of Flutewise, a non-profit organization that donates instruments to low-income students and young people with disabilities.

Born in Belfast in 1939, Sir James played the penny whistle as a small child before switching to the flute. He won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London and continued his studies at the Guildhall School of Music and later the Paris Conservatoire.

Sir James began his career at the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden which led to positions with the BBC Symphony Orchestra where he played piccolo. He was then appointed principal flautist of the London Symphony Orchestra and subsequently of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1969, Sir James Galway was appointed principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic. In 1975 Sir James launched his career as a soloist and, with the help of best-selling discs and frequent television appearances, quickly became a household name. Since then he has travelled extensively, giving recitals, performing with the world’s leading orchestras, participating in chamber-music engagements, popular music concerts and giving master classes. In 1990 he took part in the historic “The Wall” concert in Berlin and in 1998 he was the only classical musician to participate in the Nobel Peace Concert in Oslo. He is also a frequent guest on television programmes in the USA.

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On 4 July 2000 he helped celebrate the first Independence Day of the century as a guest soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra in a nationally televised PBS special entitled “A Capitol Fourth”, broadcast live from the West Lawn of the Capitol. Sir James has also taken up the baton and in addition to numerous conducting engagements around the world he is Principal Guest Conductor of the London Mozart Players.

In 1978 Sir James Galway was awarded the Order of the British Empire and in June 2001 he received the honour of knighthood from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In 1997 he was named “Musician of the Year” by Musical America and has received Record of the Year awards from Billboard and Cash Box, as well as the Grand Prix du Disque for his recordings of Mozart’s Flute Concertos and numerous gold and platinum discs. In 2004 he received the President’s Merit Award from the Recording Academy at the Grammy’s 8th annual “Salute to Classical Music and in 2005 he was honoured at the prestigious Classic Brits Awards held in London’s Royal Albert Hall for his “Outstanding Contribution to Classical Music” in celebration of his 30 years as one of the top classical musicians of our time.

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In March 2004 Sir James signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. His first release, Wings of Song, reached the no. 1 spot on the classical charts immediately after its release in August 2004. His second album followed in March 2006: Ich war ein Berliner is a collection of orchestral recordings (plus some chamber music recordings made with fellow members of the renowned BP wind section), which spotlight his solos and documents his time in Berlin. His latest recording, My Magic Flute, features Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp (with Catrin Finch) plus a collection of favourite arias, sonatas and concerto movements, all arranged for flute, flute duet (with Sir James’s wife, Lady Jeanne) or flute and harp with orchestra and is scheduled for release in autumn 2006. (by wikipedia)

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Although I’m a fan of the Christmas recordings that Sir David Willcocks abd Stephen Cleobury did with the King’s College Choir, this little gem of a classical Christmas album has its own unexpected beauties. I discovered this Christmas album in the collection of a family member, and was struck by its transcendent loveliness. It’s a joyful, uplifting, and exquisite celebration of Christmas, and specifically the Reason for the Season, and it’s a skilful blend of the old and the new. It’s a perfect blend of instrumental and vocal, lively and tender moments, and James Galway’s flute wraps around you like a rich velvety fur coat.

The opening track of Silent Night sets the tone of the recording almost immediately. The choir sings it beautifully, accompanied by Galway’s obligato descant. Although I would have liked them to sing the original John Freeman Young translation that we all know, it’s still a lovely rendition. The choir shines on some of the other tracks, such as John Rutter’s famous Shepherd’s Pipe Carol and the Czech Zither Carol, but most of the time JamesGalway04Galway accompanies them, contrasting the tenderness of What Child Is This and I Wonder as I Wander with the boisterous Past Three A Clock. Elsewhere, Galway really shines in the many solos he plays throughout the recording. His rendition of John Ireland’s The Holy Boy is beautiful beyond words and reason. In more upbeat mood the Fantasia on I Saw Three Ships blends the well-known carol with other carols, and one can really hear a certain joie de vivre here. It’s as if Galway really enjoyed playing this piece, and I think the listener can soak in the infectious gaiety here. By the time you reach the closing minutes of this album, you feel like you’re in good Christmas cheer, after you’ve soaked in the distinctly old-world charm of this Christmas offering, far away from the cacophony of commercialism that has ravaged the season many times.

In short, a self-recommending Christmas album that can serve as lovely background music to a Christmas party and yet it stands up well to serious listening. I’m convinced it appeals to those who haven’t yet grown to love the ethereal, plaintive yet crystal-clear timbre of the flute, and I think it has something to please everyone, in varying moods and style. (by Yi-Peng)

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Personnel:
James Galway (flute)
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Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Barry Griffiths
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BBC Singers + Chapel Choir Of King’s School conducted by Barry Rose and John Poole
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John Birch (organ)

Booklet01ATracklist:
01. Silent Night (Gruber) 4.09
02. Shepherd’s Pipe Carol (Rutter) 3.11
03. Air From Suite No. 3 In D (Bach) 3.59
04. Fantasia On ‘I Saw Three Ships’ (Overton) 3.10
05. Greensleeves (Traditional) 3.36
06. Zither Carol (Traditional) 2.54
07. The Holy Boy (Traditional) 2.47
08. Patapan (Traditional) 1.24
09. Past Three O’Clock (Traditional)  3.04
10. Sinfonia From The Christmas Oratorio (Bach) 2.57
11. Ave Maria (Gounod/Bach) 2.45
12. Chorale From The Christmas Oratorio (Bach) 1.42
13. I Wonder As I Wander (Traditional) 2.55
14. Sheep May Safely Graze (Bach) 5.51
15. Jesus Christ The Apple Tree (Poston) 3.30
16. We Wish You A Merry Christmas (Warrell/Ryan) 1.35

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