Ian Anderson on The Orchestra


Ian Anderson On The OrchestraIan Anderson, founding member of the legendary rock band Jethro Tull, has long been considered to be the foremost and, to many, the only exponent of rock-style flute. While still fronting Tull to this day with sell-out performances throughout the world, Ian Anderson now brings his acoustic talents to the orchestral stage.  He will perform a selection of Tull favourites, solo songs and instrumentals together with a sprinkling of Classical repertoire, all carefully re-arranged for amplified flute, acoustic-rock trio and, of course, members of the Symphony Orchestra.

“The object here is not to force together unlikely combatants in unholy musical matrimony,” says Ian.  “The Rock band and Orchestra thing goes way back to the early days of Progressive Rock in the late sixties.  As the acoustic musician of Jethro Tull, I prefer a more sympathetic synthesis of classical guitar, piano, and sympathetic percussion, drums and bass together with traditional orchestral instruments.  This is a more ambient setting where all of the musicians can leave the theatre with both eardrums and dignity impact!  We try for a vigorous Rock feel without brute force volume.”

Tull fans will recognize such songs as Aqualung, Locomotive Breath, Thick As A Brick, My God and Budapest, interspersed with varied pieces from Anderson’s acoustic material, past and present.

Lars Karsten of WAZ reviewed Ian’s shows in Germany earlier this year:

The Bochum Symphony Orchestra took these songs in new directions and their interaction with Ian Anderson’s famous flute was very impressive. 

The “inventor” of the Rock Flute showed himself to be in excellent mood.

“Budapest” was presented in a great version and. As an encore, ended the event.  The visibly excited 4000 visitors returned from the Hippie Era into real life. 

Karsten Mark of Ruhr Nachrichten said:

He can still do it!  Standing on one leg and playing the wildest solos with sharp accentuations and a characteristic sound, Ian Anderson is still the top flute player in rock.

Director and conductor, Steven Sloane shared this fun-filled opportunity with his musicians of the Bochum Symphoniker, who played at their very best.  The audience received the full benefit of the collective performance due in part to the skill of the sound technicians, with the quality, unusually for this kind of project, being will balanced between orchestra, band, and vocals.

And from Italy:

Mauro Sartori, “Il Giornale di Vicenza”

A storm of cheering for a perfect marriage. At the Teatro Regio in Parma the sacred and the profane turned out to be the ideal ingredients of a magic soiree. “From Bach to Jethro Tull” or, simple as that, from Andrea Griminelli’s to Ian Anderson’s flute for nearly three hours of Music with capitol “M”… A thrill of pleasure among Tull fans for “Life Is A Long Song” and “Wond’ring Aloud”, rarely performed live by Jethro Tull, yet perfectly suitable for orchestral arrangement… You could easily feel the patent amusement of  the conductor Danilo Rossi, usually first viola at the Scala Theatre in Milan.

Dina Bartoli, “La Gazzetta di Reggio”

Griminelli, perfectly fitting the part of the classical flute player, was free and easy; while  instintive, whimsical and jestery Anderson dominated both the scene and his flute… The genius of Danilo Rossi succeeded in putting naturally together the orchestra and the band.

Franco Giubilei, “La Stampa”


Arriving at the Teatro Regio in Parma to clash rock’s most famous flute with the classic instrument of Andrea Griminelli, Ian Anderson was able to cast a spell upon the audience as he would do leading Jethro Tull… Anderson still has charisma and listening to his flute playing during “My God” is still an incredible experience… The result is a show well balanced between Tull classical influences and the symphonic patchwork provided by the orchestra of the Teatro Regio… “In the Grip of Stronger Stuff”, a wonderful “Bourréee” and the best excerpts from “Thick as a Brick” demonstrated that Ian Anderson is, after thirty odd years, a great live performer”.

Marina Zuccon, “Il Gazzettino”


The meeting of two among the most extraordinaire flute players… Audience went absolutely crazy and in the stalls you could see the same dichotomy as on stage: ladies dressed for the grand soiréee and die-hard fans with Tull t-shirts”. 

Italian translations kindly provided by Aldo Tagliaferri.

Join Ian Anderson with Andrew Giddings (Piano), Kit Morgan (Guitar), James Duncan (Drums and Percussion) and the players of the Symphony Orchestra for an eclectic and spirited musical experience.  

The Typical Concert Programme


Classical repertoire orchestral piece  (orchestra alone)

Bombay Valentine (band alone)

From the instrumental Anderson solo album “Divinities – Twelve Dances With God”.  This album was recorded for EMI’s Classical Music Division in 1995 and reached number one in the Billboard Classical Crossover charts. Anderson confines his performance to the flute and, together with Tull keyboardist Andrew Giddings, draws upon various ensembles of orchestral musicians to complement this eclectic conceptual work.

Boris Dancing (band alone)

From solo record Secret Language of Birds.  Instrumental inspired by the unorthodox dance style of ex-Russian leader Boris Yeltsin.

Thick As A Brick

Jethro Tull’s first LP-length epic is a masterpiece in the annals of progressive rock, and one of the few works of its kind that still holds up 25 years later. Written as a spoof on the concept album genre, it mixed hard rock and English Folk Music with classical influences, set to stream-of-consciousness lyrics so dense with imagery that some fans spent weeks pondering the meaning. The group created a dazzling tour-de-force performance, at once playful, profound, and challenging, without overwhelming the listener. The original LP was amongst the best sounding, best engineered record Tull ever released, easily capturing the shifting dynamics between the soft all-acoustic passages and the electric rock crescendos surrounding them.  A radio playlist regular which sold over 6 million records worldwide.


Instrumental written by 70’s Tull keyboardist and arranger David Palmer – favourite at weddings and funerals.

Life Is A Long Song (string quartet)

An acoustic gem from the early 70’s.

Wond’ring Aloud (string quartet)

Contemplative love song from the Aqualung album.

In The Grip of Stronger Stuff/  In a Black Box

From the Anderson solo album Divinities. Wild Irish Folk-influenced workout followed by eerie theme from the Devil’s music box.

Dot Com

Title track from the 1999 Jethro Tull album received airplay on classic rock stations nationwide. Features the Indian Classical bamboo flute.

Bouree (J. S. Bach)

Anderson’s jazzy improvised development of Bach tune. Big favorite at Jethro Tull concerts past and present.




Some Day the Sun Won’t Shine For You (band alone)

Key track from the first Jethro Tull album “This Was”.

Harmonica lead piece in the tradition of Black American Folk Blues.

Jack In The Green (band alone)

A special treat for anyone with a fondness for the Tull’s more folk-oriented material. This song, based on an English folk-lore woodland elf was featured on the album “Songs From The Wood”.

Fantasia on Greensleeves (Ralph Vaughan Williams)

The composer might shift uneasily at the 7/8 time middle sequence added to his otherwise faithfully performed score.

Cheap Day Return (Oboe, Bassoon)

Acoustic piece from the Aqualung album.

Mother Goose (Oboe, Bassoon)

Surreal acoustic outing based on characters observed on a sunny day in London’s Hampstead Heath public park.

From A Dead Beat To An Old Greaser

Nostalgic whimsy on the subject of 50’s British social stereotypes. The Beatnik versus the Biker.

Too Old to Rock and Roll: Too Young To Die

Title track from the 1975 album which celebrates the old Rocker (Biker) who clings to his youth and the values associated with him and his peers.


Released at a time when a lot of bands were embracing pop-Christianity (a la Jesus Christ Superstar), Aqualung was a bold statement for a rock group; a pro-God anti-church tract that probably got lots of teenagers wrestling with these ideas for the first time in their lives. This was the album that made Jethro Tull a fixture on FM radio, with riff-heavy songs like “My God,” “Hymn 43,” “Locomotive Breath,” “Cross-Eyed Mary,” “Wind Up,” as well as the title track. And from there, Tull became a major arena act, and a fixture at the top of the record charts for most of the 1970s. Mixing hard rock and folk melodies with Ian Anderson’s dour musings on faith and religion, the record was extremely profound for a number seven chart hit, one of the most cerebral albums ever to reach such a wide audience of rock listeners. Still a staple of radio play today. Sold over 12 million albums. The orchestral version acknowledges the main themes of the song but develops and varies them to bring into the performance some new ideas and settings.

My God

An essential piece from the Aqualung album which takes a provocative dig at organized religion.


Concert Favorite from the Grammy winning album  “Crest Of The Knave”. Written after a concert in Budapest in 1986. Draws on folk, rock and classical traditions with sexy – but not sexist – lyrics.


Locomotive Breath

Classic Tull rocker from the Aqualung album to end the show.

So – what is it like to play in this musical context with Tull and Anderson solo material shared amongst so many musicians?

Ian says, “Well, firstly, it is a little harrowing and we are all a little nervous regarding each other’s technical skills and our distinct and sometimes opposing separate musical backgrounds. But after a rehearsal (or three) we are settled to the task of working together and beginning to sense the thrill of performance on the public level.”

“I try to keep firmly in mind that the collective musical force works as giant acoustic ensemble and that we acoustic rockers at the core of the performance are guests at the orchestral house and must fit in, in terms of both volume and sound.  The slightly amplified nature of the orchestra and the function of solo instruments and vocals from me and the other core musicians must never get out of hand. The audience’s ears adjust quickly to the overall sound level and the power of the orchestrations and the pulse of the orchestra itself sounds plenty big enough without ever approaching typical rock concert levels – although we do turn it up a tad towards the end!”

“The delicate sections with string quartet or woodwind duo are very satisfying and the improvisational elements are still there – at least for me – provided I remember to cue the conductor for the return to the written score again. Train wrecks are spectacular if I get it wrong. Well worth the price of a ticket in themselves!”

“If the opportunity presents itself, I should like to work with more orchestras in the USA and elsewhere in the world during the next two years – not on a daily basis, since the rehearsal and production realities make it too arduous – but frequently enough to keep the momentum of a tour going. Three shows a week might be possible with the odd Rubbing Elbows solo acoustic show thrown in here and there.  Let’s see what transpires in 2002/3 and maybe the addition of new material from upcoming writing and recording sessions will bring more spice to the table.”

Check out www.jethrotull.com for news of Ian Anderson solo concert dates, as well as Tull shows to come.