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Three Christmases have passed since Ian Anderson and various members of his Jethro Tull family of musicians last played a benefit gig at St Bride's. Not that they haven't been going to church at Christmastide. Rather the reverse. They've just been playing to some larger houses.
After the success of the St Bride's concerts in the noughties, which supported local charities for the homeless, Ian and the Tull caravan moved on to some of our English cathedrals and have played Exeter, Canterbury (twice), Salisbury, Manchester and this Christmas play Newcastle cathedral, before making a wearied but much-appreciated special effort to travel south to take in St Bride's the following night.
In previous years and along the way, Ian has persuaded some old friends to make merry with him too - including Greg Lake of ELP fame, the Moody Blues' Justin Hayward and Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson. Plus the odd celeb reader of the nativity story, such as heart-throb actor Andrew Lincoln and Gavin Esler, who has something of the Newsnight about him.
They've been bringing people into church at Christmas who wouldn't usually be there - including themselves. "I don't count myself in your C of E ranks," says Ian, "though those who have assumed that I'm some sort of rampant atheist - maybe because they haven't listened carefully enough to songs I wrote in the early Seventies - are somewhat wide of the mark. We must talk about it sometime.
"And anyway, whatever our beliefs or lack of them, I think we can all agree what a rich heritage we have in our beautiful churches and cathedrals. You don't find that anywhere else in the world - and I've looked around, believe me. We won't be building any more of them, I fear."
Ian and the band have been touring Europe, the Middle-east and the US throughout 2012, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Jethro Tull's seminal album Thick As A Brick, while playing its successor album alongside the original. So it's particularly generous of them to make time for the St Bride's benefit on Saturday 15th December. It promises a feast of Tull's festive fare, with some old favourites and one or two surprises.
The band likes the intimacy of playing to some smaller audiences, but tickets will go fast, so click the link to be sure of a pew at St Bride's.
"It'll be good to be back at St Bride's and to support the Inspire! Appeal," says Ian. "Sir Christopher Wren has done his bit and now it's time for us to do ours. I was sorry but hardly surprised to hear of the building's decay over the years. I hear the steeple is old, a bit cracked and could become dangerous if not properly looked after. A bit like me and the average Tull fan, really..."