JAMES Galway brings the same energy and purpose to his playing as he does to his quintessentially Irish stage persona. Galway is the most famous flautist of his generation. He has dominated public performances for more than two decades, bringing the instrument and the music away from the cloistered environs of the classical crowd and into the homes of the ordinary people. Effectively, Galway has done for the flute what Nigel Kennedy did for the violin. His attitude to playing also bears comparison with Kennedy. But where the younger man has been accused of posturing, Galway has spread his word through an iconoclastic approach to playing. An eccentric, Galway owns diamond-tipped, solid gold flutes which he plays with undiluted energy. Reportedly, he frequently tells his students that their time studying is wasted, that they should practise their instrument rather than preach academic distinctions. Galway studied at prestigious music schools himself but never formally graduated because he refused to attend classes that he considered ''unnecessary''. Few musicians have captured the imagination of the young like Galway and he will bring his fresh outlook and perspective to his ''pops'' concert on February 9, where he will perform with veteran jazz singer Cleo Laine. The concert will feature hits from stage and screen productions as well as jazz and popular standards. The flautist will play as soloist with the Hongkong Philharmonic Orchestra on February 13, 14, 20 and 21 and will give a recital on February 12 featuring music by Mozart, Schubert, Poulenc, Debussy and Doppler. He will be accompanied by Jose Feghali, the Brazilian recitalist who also has a history for recording popular dance numbers from his homeland. Galway once said: ''I'd like to make a record of the music of Elton John. He's like a Schubert to me. But I can relate to him more than I can to Schubert.'' Retaining his popularity through his unaffected approach to people and playing, James Galway's personality is prevalent throughout his performance.