The Christmas Jethro Tull

PUBLISHED: 11:42 06 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:24 20 February 2013

The Christmas Jethro Tull

The Christmas Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson finds a blend of the religious and the secular for his cathedral shows, as Stu Lambert discovers

Ian Anderson Plays

'The Christmas Jethro Tull'

16 December

In support of the Salisbury Cathedral Conservation Fund.

Tickets available via

(19.50, 15.50 restricted view 10)

Jethro Tulls Ian Anderson finds a blend of the religious and the secular for his cathedral shows, as Stu Lambert discovers

Ian Anderson lead singer, flautist and crazy-eyed embodiment of 70s rock legends Jethro Tull feels the issues he raised in Tulls landmark album Aqualung are as pressing now as when they were first heard 40 years ago. As the economic crisis, public service cuts and the Churchs relations with anti-capitalist protests fill the news, his lyrics have kept their original bite. Homelessness, prostitution and other social issues dont go away, asserts Anderson, and the divisions within the Church are still there: the cant, the hypocrisy are being talked about today.

Anderson is performing The Christmas Jethro Tull (including songs from Aqualung) in Canterbury, Salisbury and Manchester cathedrals this December, and he funds the shows entirely himself so that all the ticket money can go to the good cause. Anderson describes the evening as some uplifting Christmas spirit, music, readings and maybe even a prayer or two. The Salisbury evening benefits the Salisbury Cathedral Conservation Fund.

Part of what draws me to churches and cathedrals is the precarious nature of their future the physical stature, enormity and craftsmanship and artisanship that will never happen again, he observes. Those of us who care about these things have a moral responsibility to keep the roof on them.

Side two of the original vinyl album of Aqualung, subtitled My God, has a theme of organised religion losing its connection to ordinary people and being used by some for their own ends. Interesting, then, that Andersons chosen cause with his imminent concerts is cathedrals the pinnacle of organised Christianity.

Anderson is not a Christian. I dont believe in an interventionist god, so I cannot be a Christian. Id be a very bad Christian. I rant, I get jealous he muses. However, he sees no contradiction in being supportive of the Church. I have a sense of appreciation of the Church and indeed a loyalty to it particularly the Church of England and of the physical, material edifice of our churches and cathedrals.

The recent resignations at St Pauls Cathedral over its handling of an anti-capitalist protest camp make a timely backdrop to the reissue of Aqualung, but 40 years have brought more balance to Andersons sympathies: One of the songs I am rehearsing today is a diatribe against bankers, Banker Bets, Banker Wins, but I cant help feeling that more could be achieved by working side by side with certain voices in the Church, he adds.

Anderson moved to North Wiltshire some 16 years ago. His daughter, Gael, and her husband, actor Andrew Lincoln, have recently moved in nearby. Andersons mid-1700s manor house, with a glimpse of a paved courtyard with a fountain and pond from the office window, has been much added to over the years.

Its a mongrel house, but its funky and friendly, says Anderson. Not all the changes are to his taste: Theres a bathroom that looks like it would be more suitable for a Hollywood madam, a marble extravaganza with marble dolphins that spew out hot and cold water its so bad taste we decided to keep it.

The house is set in 400 acres of land, mostly pasture as the clay soil is heavy to work, and Anderson has planted some 30,000 trees, for the most part oak and ash, and recently dug a half-acre pond which he expects to stock with fish next year. He has managed estates for many years. On moving to Wiltshire, he sold his 800-acre Buckinghamshire estate where he ran shoots with up to 5,000 birds, and 15,000 acres in Skye, sold to a conservation body.

Greg Lake (ex Emerson, Lake and Palmer) will be a special guest at the concert. Greg will sing his hits I Believe In Father Christmas and Lucky Man. "I Believe in Father Christmas is a really good song, good lyrics and a good sentiment, says Anderson. This is a concert which Anderson hopes will appeal to the worshipful and the secular alike. The whole point is to bring people in and give themselves to that idea of community gathering. Its not the outcome thats important, its the engagement with the message, and we are perhaps more susceptible to that at Christmas. If they dont buy into the Christian message, at least they have engaged with the Cathedral, that lovely building on their doorstep. That for me is an absolute delight.


The classic 1971 album Aqualung was recently re-released by EMI in a super deluxe package: a hardback book with liner notes, interviews and memoirs; a vinyl LP, two CDs with the album and additional recordings, and 5.1 surround-sound albums on DVD and Blu-Ray. (The original album was one of very few to be mastered in quadraphonic sound.) Theres a deluxe 2CD pack for the less intense fans. The album has sold 15 million copies worldwide. Fittingly (or ironically, depending on your point of view), Aqualung was recorded in the then-new Basing Street Studios in London, a converted church.

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