Monday, August 08, 2011

surely, this can’t be right1?: worth

I have a feeling that this blog title might be one that I’ll revisit over the coming months! Please bear with me because I suspect it will take a little time to explain myself….
On Saturday night, I did two rather unusual things (for me). Firstly, I watched some television and, secondly, I stayed up until well past 10.30pm! I hadn’t really intended to do so, but decided to see the start of the Mahler’s Symphony no.2 Prom on BBC2 (my favourite composer) and to see the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela “in action” – I’d heard wonderful things about them after their last Prom performance in 2007. Of course, I ended up watching it to the very end (and became quite emotional in the process!). Their performance was simply mesmerising; absolutely stunning. Although it hardly does justice to the whole piece, you can see/hear the final two minutes or so here. You can also see what the Guardian’s critic made of it by clicking here.
The orchestra, led by its electrifying conductor Gustavo Dudamel, has an average age of just 24. This fantastic orchestra is the flagship of an education system which gives young people the chance to learn an instrument, getting them away from drugs, guns and crime in the barrios. “El Sistema” is a publicly financed voluntary sector music education programme in Venezuela, originally called Social Action for Music; it is a state foundation which watches over the country's 125 youth orchestras and the instrumental training programmes which make them possible. El Sistema has 31 symphony orchestras - but its greatest achievement is the 250,000 children who attend its music schools around the country, 90% of them from poor socio-economic backgrounds. I particularly love its motto: “To Play and to Fight”. For El Sistema’s musicians, this means “undertaking music as a collective experience which also involves individual effort; it entails a relentless pursuit of excellence and, above all, it means persevering until dreams become reality”.
For some reason, I went to bed contrasting this musical experience with the world of football (yes, I know, very strange!).
The orchestra had just played for over 90 minutes. All of its members were stunning musicians in their own right and had rehearsed as a unit to produce a simply magical “team” performance. I don’t know how much they earn for doing this but I don’t imagine it’s mega-money (or anything like it). As just one example, Manchester City FC is a football team awash with several highly-paid “stars”. One of its latest recruits, Sergio Aguero, is a 23 year-old Argentina striker signed recently for £38m. He has a five year contract at a reported weekly wage of £200,000 (that’s just another £52m over the next FIVE years – in other words, an expenditure of just £90million for ONE player!). He will presumably play in most games for 90 minutes; he’s clearly a gifted player technically and he too will have been training with his colleagues in the hope of producing a simply magical individual and “team” performance.
As much as I love sport, I find the contrast of this orchestra and this football player/team worrying in the extreme and just can’t reconcile the massive differences in their respective monetary worth or perceived values. I know people often refer to football as “the beautiful game” but, frankly, after sitting through the orchestra’s sublime performance, I don’t think football – with all its obscene money - comes close by comparison.
Photo: Gustavo Dudamel and Sergio Aguero – contrasting play-makers?
PS: As a complete aside, I’ve just been checking how long it would have taken me to earn the £52million Sergio will be earning over the next FIVE years (taking a conservative view of my old school salary)… the answer is just a LITTLE frightening: 2,849 years – or until the year 4860! I MIGHT not live that long…. Absolutely ridiculous, isn’t it! It's obscene. It's just plain WRONG.

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