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Magical night as Sir James brings his story to life

James Galway's Magic Triumphs Belfast Waterfront Hall

By Alf McCreary

The Ulster Orchestra's special concert to complete its 50th anniversary year and to honour Sir James Galway, its Artist Laureate, was a virtual "This Is Your Life", and a magical evening.

Galway's pulling-power was evident in the packed Waterfront Hall, and the concept of mixing his life story with his virtuosity worked well. This required deft handling by presenter Gerry Kelly, and conductor David Brophy.

The concert began with an impressive performance of Beethoven's superb Egmont overture, but after that the evening belonged to flautist Sir James and his wife, Lady Jeanne. Another welcome soloist was the Principal Flute of the Ulster Orchestra, Colin Fleming, a former pupil of Galway. They combined beautifully in Doppler's Rondo.

The remarkable story of Jimmy Galway's rise from his working-class background near Belfast docks to grace the finest musical stages across the world, bears re-telling again and again.

His wit was as sharp as ever, and there was an excellent visual backdrop from MacMillan Media, including contributions from his former schoolteacher and a boyhood friend.

Sir James's performance of the third movement of Mozart's Flute Concerto was impeccable. He also played a beautiful duet with harpist Tanya Houghton, on "The Star of the County Down."

Lady Jeanne joined Sir James in a warm reminiscence of how they had met, before sharing a duet, Carolan Variations, arranged by local composer Philip Hammond.

The prolonged standing applause for one of Belfast's favourite sons was apt and touching.

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