JAMES GALWAY, the owner of gold-plated flutes and a 14-karat sound, has given up conducting and almost all teaching because they threaten to nibble away at his art, generally ranked at the top since he went solo in 1975.
"I just had a seven-day holiday in Los Angeles. What did I do? Practiced the flute. The biggest mistake musicians make, they don't practice on holiday. Then they come back and panic two days before a concert. Holidays should refresh the soul, but also the art."
Galway figures that though he began playing as a Belfast boy hooked on the penny whistle and then flute, his music at the age of 50 still needs those scales and rehearsing to handle his more than 100 concerts over nine months a year.
To further keep in shape, he's cut out most meat and stopped drinking. Medical advice, lagging energy and an attack of diverticulitis helped prompt the moves in recent years. "Travel can be a hard life," he said. "At every stop there's a party for you, killing you with kindness."
So the energy's up. "I get up at 6 a.m., catch a plane at 7:15, fly somewhere, check into the hotel, talk with a colleague of yours, practice, take a nap and play a concert. The daily practicing is important. I gave up conducting because I didn't have the time to learn the scores and still play the flute. Conductors must know all the scores."
One conductor who knows his score, Galway says, is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's David Zinman. "He learns the music . . . great to work with . . . made me laugh . . . learned the huge Pied Piper Fantasy score [by John Corigliano] so he wouldn't need an extra suitcase again."
Galway and the BSO will play Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 1 in G Major and Joaquin Rodrigo's "Fantasia para un gentilhombre" at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Columbia Festival of the Arts, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Galway arranged the latter guitar piece for flute.
The flutist has chided musicians who turn off possible classical music fans when "they play it boring . . . musicians should get in the right mood before they play. If it's an adagio [slow], they should have an inner calm. An andante [moderate pace], a little brighter mood. Allegro [lively], fun and some gaiety. Be conscious."
For their part, listeners can do a couple things. "Know a little about the music technically," he advised. "Compare recordings and performances. You'll hear differences. Also, people shouldn't take music too seriously. Relax, go to be entertained and have fun, not to judge."
Galway's "main thing" remains classical music -- he has recorded about 40 classical music albums and compact discs. His father, a riveter at Harland and Wolff shipbuilders, loved classical music and played the flute; his mother, a yarn winder for weavers, played the piano. Among his favorite composers are the Viennese -- Bruckner, Mahler, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven, the waltzing Strausses.
But he's been successful as a crossover artist with five pop albums, tours and television appearances.
"There was a lot of music for a boy in Belfast I heard "La Vie en Rose," Edith Piaf, Bing Crosby, yodeling cowboys in the cinema. We studied Italian opera with the Lone Ranger. Every morning there was Irish music on the radio."
Galway and his third wife and former pupil, Jeanne, live in Lucerne, Switzerland. She accompanies him on his tours and they are spending the July 4 holiday at her parents' home on Long Island. He has a son, Stephen, 26, from his first marriage, and a son, Patrick, 18, and twin daughters, Charlotte and Jennifer, 16, from his second.
For those who wonder if his beard gets in the way of the flute, Galway says in fact it helps keep the flute in place and also helps him avoid razor nicks.
He's having an easier time there than with his luggage or mail. Two years ago a bag with five precious flutes and a computer was stolen from the Lucerne train station. And "you'll like this one" . . . recently, he said, his new computer was damaged in a thunderstorm and a replacement computer was lost in the mail.
Galway hardly gets lost on the concert circuit. He plays Buckingham Palace July 16 and Lincoln Center and Tanglewood later this summer. More recordings are due, such as the Mozart quartets with the Tokyo Quartet. But before then, on Sunday, he's anxious to rejoin the BSO, with whom he has toured.
"I get a kick out of Baltimore and the symphony . . . nice open harbor area to walk around . . . good crab cakes."