Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

James Galway's Top 5 Irish Favorites

Flutist James Galway picks his favorite Irish songs.
IMG Artists
Flutist James Galway picks his favorite Irish songs.

With St. Patrick's Day just around the corner, who better to recommend a few Celtic favorites than Sir James Galway. The Belfast-born musician, with over 30 million records sold, is the most recognized flutist today. After more than 45 years on the concert stage and in the recording studio, Galway maintains his beautiful, round tone and effortless breath control. Sir James is a great interpreter of Mozart, but he doesn't thrive on the classics alone. Galway grew up listening to Irish music, and for the holiday he chose a few of his favorites.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit

1. "Carolan's Concerto"

This is from my old friend Derek Bell. He comes from north of Ireland, from Belfast, and I grew up with Derek at school. At the Royal College of Music, he was composing like mad, playing the oboe, and he was a wonderful piano player. He taught himself the harp, just to get a job in an orchestra where he was playing the oboe. But he noticed that he was playing the oboe rather more than the harp player was playing the harp. So when the position became vacant, he bought a harp, learned it up quick, and got the job. And then he joined with the Chieftains.

2. "Molly Malone"

Then I thought we should have Sinead O’Connor. She’s such an icon of Irish pop. And, she does a very good version of Molly Malone

3. "Marble Halls"

Enya’s record Shepherd Moons is great. She sings the song “I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls,” which is from the opera The Bohemian Girl by Michael Balfe—one of the most popular operas ever in Ireland. Balfe was born in Dublin in 1808, and was great at inserting ballads into his operas. And it’s beautiful the way Enya has arranged this one.

4. "Queen of the Slipstream"

And then there’s Van Morrison. What can you say? I love anything by him. And, like me, he’s from Belfast.

5. "The Briar and the Rose"

I’ve been enjoying the compilation called Her Infinite variety: Celtic Women in Music and Song, especially the group Niamh Parsons and the Loose Connections. They do a beautiful arrangement of “The Briar and the Rose.”