sport

Oxford Chimeras crowned champions of Europe

Oxford Chimeras crowned champions of Europe

Oxford’s Radcliffe Chimeras Quidditch team have continued their winning streak after claiming victory in the European Regional Championships in Brussels last week.

The muggle Quidditch tournament, hosted by the International Quidditch Association, attracted 12 teams from countries like France, Italy, Belgium and Spain.

The team secured a 100-30 point victory over last year’s champions, Paris Phénix, in the finals. Player Steffan Danino achieved the required snitch grab to end the match, and secure the Chimeras’ place as champions of Europe.

Ashley Cooper, president of the Oxford University Quidditch Club, described the competition as “amazing”.

He said: “There was such a buzz of excitement, and the sportsmanship from everyone was incredible.”

“The response from the crowd and other teams was brilliant. We were hoisted onto people’s shoulders and cheered and carried around. We even had people demanding photos and autographs with us.”

The Quidlings, Oxford’s second team, reached the quarter finals of the tournament but lost 50-30 to Italian side Lunatica.

Matthew Western, captain of the team, commented: “The European championships were a huge triumph for the Quidlings, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Once again our opposition underestimated us and paid the price.”

“Some of the defeats that put us out of the running for the World Cup may have been frustrating[...]but we learnt so much, and I’m sure we’ll hit Europe even harder when we return.”

Western, who is also publicity officer for the club, added: “I hope our victory over some seriously challenging opposition shows Oxford that we are sportspeople first and Harry Potter fans second (if at all), and inspires more to join one of the fastest-growing sports in the country”.

Oxford University Quidditch Club is due to apply to Sport England for official recognition.

The club is also set to host the world’s biggest ever mercenary Quidditch Cup in two weeks’ time, described by Cooper as a Quidditich version of fantasy football, with 150 real players from across Europe.

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Queen’s sports committee told to balance genders

Queen’s sports committee told to balance genders

The Queen’s College JCR and Governing Body have demanded that the college’s predominately male sports committee become more inclusive and democratic.

The Amalgamated Sports Committee, known as Amalgers, has been criticised for lacking gender balance. JCR President Alfred Burton described Amalgers as “having a history of excluding women”. Lacrosse Captain Rebecca Shutt concurred, saying that women “are underrepresented”.

The committee includes all major sports captains and one minority sports representative. As many Queen’s female sports teams play minor sports, few female captains sit on the committee.

Mr Burton stated that even female major sports captains were not treated equally to their male counterparts. Burton claimed “male captains attended the Michaelmas and Trinity meetings, at which the budget was approved and elections held respectively, and female captains attended the Hilary meeting. Female captains were therefore unable to vote in elections or have their say in how the budget was allocated”.

In response to these criticisms, the Governing Body has requested that Amalgers reform. They demanded that it either must invite all major and minor sports captains to its meetings, or it must invite all major sports captains and double the number of minority sports representatives.

The Governing Body has also suggested that any member of Queen’s who has participated in college sport in the last year should be able to vote for Amalgers’ President, Secretary and Website Administrator.

The changes have been met with a broadly receptive response, which President Burton described as “extremely positive”. He added that the changes “will allow for equal representation of male and female teams at meetings, and increase the accountability and mandate of those who run sport in College”.

James Colenutt, Queen’s Football Captain, commented “QCAFC is wholeheartedly behind these proposed changes; they will have a positive impact on the way sport is run at Queen’s”.

Lacrosse Captain Rebecca Shutt stated “men and women should feel equally encouraged to be involved in sport” and felt that “the overall mood in college is for the changes”. Miss Shutt however did caution “many are unaware of what the changes fully entail.”

Former JCR President Jane Cahill also weighed in to support the changes, describing the Governing Body’s decision as “commendable” and President Burton’s work on the issue as “fantastic”.

However, similar alterations have not been welcomed in the past. In a Trinity 2013 JCR meeting, the then head of Amalgers, Euan Campbell, criticised potential changes to the committee’s structure. Euan worried that “rugby, squash and cricket, which only have men’s captains, will have one representative each” and thus “be outweighed in discussion”.

Mr Burton claimed it was the failure of the organisation to voluntarily change that led to the Governing Body stepping in.

PHOTO/simononly

Debate: Englishness is defined by being born in England

Debate: Englishness is defined by being born in England

Proposition – Harry Noad

The English are, by law, a nation. We inhabit this ‘green and pleasant’ land, a peoples originally descended from the Anglo-Saxons of old. In a week where a Belgian teenager of Albanian descent and a twenty-one year old from Stevenage have sparked raucous debate over the definition of Englishness, we the English nation have become embroiled in arguments over something that really doesn’t matter in the slightest.

Personally, I’m sick to death of schticky lists discussing what defines the concept of Englishness. A recent article from the Beeb was no exception: Is it a confusion over national identity that makes us English? An inability to win a penalty shootout?  A fondness for cricket?! Fewer than one in a thousand of us play the damn sport! There is no ‘English’ sense of humour or universally accepted Church of England;  the organisation that takes the name could hardly claim to represent every English Christian, never mind English person.

So what is an English person? If I were to pluck a little old lady from her expensive townhouse in Chelsea and put her next to a rough-and-tumble pre-teen from Newcastle, what connection would they possibly share? She could be drinking her Earl Grey and he his can of Carlsberg, and it’d be immensely difficult to identify any mutual qualities… save one. Both were born on England’s shores. That’s where their similarities begin and end. There is no need to delve into complicated accounts of genesis and heritage, what makes the two English is their shared birthplace: England.

Of late, we have confused this purely factual concept of Englishness with national pride, a sense of attachment to David Beckham and real ale, and a list of Brownite-esque ‘values’ from democracy and multiculturalism to queuing and drinking. To feel connections such as these is not to ‘feel English’, and herein lies the confusion behind the thousands of vitriolic articles written in the wake of Jack Wilshere’s unpopular statements. To discover where we first lost sight of what Englishness really means, we have to harken back to the 19th century.

If we go back to the first recorded usage of the word, a William Taylor letter of 1804, we find reference to ‘the Englishness of several fairy-tales supposed to be French.’ Used in such a manner, the word clearly refers to nationality, and nothing else. The next reference, too, was even more telling. In an 1838 edition of the New Monthly Magazine and Humorist, an article refers to ‘the Englishness of everything about man, woman, and child born in the island’.

This is the true definition of ‘English’ – being born in England. That is the long and short of it, and should be the limit of the word. An English muffin originates in England, French bread was ‘born’ in France. Affiliating ‘Englishness’ with the swelling feeling of pride at seeing Dame Kelly Holmes cross the line or Steven Gerrard blast a long-range effort into the back of the net is missing the point, and giving far too much weight to a single word. National pride is appropriate for anybody who has even a minor connection to a country, but a claim to ‘Englishness’, ‘Frenchness’ or anything else is simply factually incorrect. The furore over ‘Englishness’ is completely unfounded, and the controversy surrounding Wilshere’s assertions tiresome. If you’re proud of your country, whether you were born there or not, then sing its praises and fly its flag. Don’t let an outdated and (more recently) desperately misconstrued concept stand in your way.

[caption id="attachment_45836" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Debate about sport player's eligibility to play for the English teams has rages in recent week. Debate about sport player’s eligibility to play for the English teams has rages in recent week. PHOTO/ONESALIENTOVERSIGHT[/caption]

 

Opposition – Maryam Ahmed

Englishness is an absolute blighter of a concept to pin down. John Major was lampooned for being out of touch when he referenced an England of “long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs.” Norman Tebbit famously devised a ‘cricket test’ to gauge the Englishness of first and second-generation immigrants. Jeremy Paxman devoted an entire book to grappling with the idea of Englishness. Boris seems to think Englishness has something to do with the Victorian game of whiff-whaff. More recently, the EDL have all but hijacked the Cross of St George, and taken to spouting the most hateful tripe under the guise of Englishness. It’s a minefield. No wonder we, the English, are collectively so hesitant to define what Englishness actually means. Whilst a consensus on our national identity must be reached, the proposition that Englishness is dependent on having been born in England is far too simplistic to be credible.

Firstly, reducing an entire nation’s customs, culture, and heritage to a matter of geography and (worse still) bureaucracy seems thoroughly un-English and rather cowardly. By resorting to such a rigid and unimaginative definition of Englishness, the proposition has conveniently dodged the awkward but pressing questions facing modern English society. How to unite all those in England under a common banner, regardless of socio-economic background, ethnicity, or religion? How to preserve English culture whilst welcoming newcomers? How to promote social cohesion? How to instil a sense of English pride without verging on nationalism? Scrawling ‘England’ on a birth certificate addresses none of these concerns. In skirting around them with such a superficial definition of Englishness, we risk leaving a cultural vacuum which far-right extremist groups are only too happy to fill with their own ludicrous views on national identity. The proposition, therefore, is not merely naïve, it is dangerous and detrimental to English society.

Secondly, the traits and eccentricities which truly define Englishness are evidently not restricted to those born in England. A stiff upper lip, of course, ranks highly on the list. Lord Uxbridge barely batted an eyelid when his leg was blown off during the Battle of Waterloo, saying only “by God, Sir, I have lost my leg,” to which the Duke of Wellington replied “by God, Sir, so you have.” But this same stoicism is displayed in bucketloads by newcomers to England. Indeed, one might venture so far as to argue that our immigrant workers and sporting heroes have more grit and innate Englishness than any born and bred English benefits swindler. And if the English ought to cry God for England, Harry and Saint George, then surely the millions of Indians who volunteered to fight for Queen and country during World War II had plenty of English pluck. England expected every man to do his duty, and they certainly delivered. The proposition would negate the enormous contributions made by our hardworking newcomers and our war heroes, on the basis that they were born overseas.

Even our greatest hymns acknowledge that Englishness cannot, and will not, be defined in physical terms. Both “Jerusalem” and “I Vow to Thee my Country” associate England’s green and pleasant land with the lofty ideals of love, faithfulness and service. The latter refers to a country whose “ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.” Englishness, in short, is a set of values and ideals, not at all restricted by one’s place of birth. If your correspondent were to follow in the footsteps of Norman Tebbit, she would propose the ‘airport test’: if you touch down at Heathrow and think “I’m home,” you’re home.

Blues go blue for charity

Blues go blue for charity

PHOTOS/Toby Mather

Oxford’s top athletes have set aside their sticks, oars, bats and balls to bare all for a charity nude calendar.

The Oxford Blues Charity Naked Calendar, featuring photos taken by Jesus student Toby Mather, exhibits 70 Blues athletes, their modesty kept intact by a host of cunning camera angles and strategically-positioned objects.

Teams featured in the calendar include athletics, fencing, lacrosse, netball, polo, rowing, rugby, squash, swimming, tennis and triathlon.

Ollie Bristowe, a member of the rowing team at St Peter’s, adorns April with his disrobed 6’ 4’’ frame. He said: “I was just hanging out in the boathouse when some guy turned up with a camera. Apparently it’s for charity.”

Though far from the first of its kind in Oxford, the RAG-organised calendar marks the first time such charitable nudity has been coordinated on a university-wide scale. The project is RAG’s latest fundraising effort to help meet its target of raising £100,000 for its student-elected charities this year.

Other recent initiatives have included Dodgeball Cuppers, their annual Summer Twist cocktail event, and a burrito-eating competition.

The proceeds from the calendar will be shared between RAG’s four chosen charities for the term: The Oxford Food Bank, Education Partnerships Africa, Students Supporting Street Kids and Giving What We Can.

Edward Higson, president of the Oxford chapter of Giving What We Can, lauded the calendar as “an arousing success” and its athletes as “fit”.

RAG Events Officer Nathalie Cooper commented that, while the calendar has only recently gone on sale, it has “already generated quite a buzz” and that they are “really pleased with the final outcome” of the calendar. She added that the RAG committee are “optimistic that it will raise a lot of money for our four great causes”.

Mansfield student Iain Mandale, who this year rowed Oxford’s Isis boat to victory over Cambridge’s Goldie during the Boat Race, said that a few problems had been encountered during the photoshoots. “The inevitable shrink came on as soon as we entered the breezy boat bay – it’s always best to warm up properly before a session”, he commented.

The charity calendar is available to buy online from the Oxford University Shop for £10 and can be found here: www.oushop.com.

PHOTOS/Toby Mather

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fencing

 

Debate: Is rowing a good use of an Oxford student’s time?

Debate: Is rowing a good use of an Oxford student’s time?

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Proposition – Felix Chow

If there is one thing that Oxford students lack, it is the time to enjoy the many things the university has to offer. So why would students with essay crises and Prelims want to spend so much of their free time rowing? For those who choose to take up rowing, it can be extremely worthwhile and brings with it a unique combination of valuable experiences.

Before developing the case for rowing, it is important to acknowledge an obvious downside: the large time and emotional commitments that are required to take part. Not everyone can cope successfully with these challenges, and for those who cannot there are plenty of other activities. However, with good time management skills and the ability to balance work and play, rowing can be complementary to a busy work schedule. The wonderful thing about rowing at Oxford is the range of levels of involvement available; students can choose a level that works for them (While a Blues rower may be training for several sessions every day of the week, a casual college crew will be on the river perhaps twice a week).

Being involved in rowing at some level can be very rewarding. It provides a mix of experiences that is a very special opportunity available to all students at this university.

First, rowing is a source of personal development. In a university that only cares about academic learning, rowing picks up what tutorials leave out. Being part of a crew develops skills in team work, time management, and leadership among other things. Just like doing any other sport, rowing regularly contributes to health and fitness. Furthermore, the psychological and physical challenges in preparing for a race foster fortitude and the ability to see something through. These are invaluable life lessons that will stay in a student’s life long after they graduate.

Second, the social aspect is integral to being a part of a boat club. It is a prime environment to meet people from across the college and the university out of the context of the academic hierarchies. It is not uncommon to have boats with members from the JCR, MCR, and occasionally SCR all rowing towards a common goal. Club socials and crew dates are a great way to wind down from a busy day of lectures. And rowing blazers, love them or hate them, provide a sense of cohesion among the boat club. The shared experience and hard work lead to lasting friendships and camaraderie.

Third, taking up rowing is extremely accessible and affordable at Oxford University. College level rowing provides novice training that is open to everyone no matter their athletic ability. Rowing is one of those sports that people can pick up in their first year and become very good at by the time they graduate. Except maybe in a few “rowing colleges”, most rowers in the college first boats started rowing at Oxford. It is also an inexpensive activity. Students at this university are extremely privileged to have access to such good facilities across the colleges and at the university level, paid for by alumni donations and investments by the colleges. So being at Oxford provides a great opportunity to start rowing.

And fourth, rowing is a lot of fun! The feeling of gliding through the water perfectly in sync with seven other crewmates in a balanced boat is sublime. The races are extremely exciting, especially the format of bumps racing. Oxford being one of the few places in the world that hosts bumps racing allows rowers here to enjoy the thrill and nail-biting suspense of these “anything could happen” races.

Rowing is not for everyone. For those who choose to be involved, it is a unique experience that allows for developing character, building camaraderie, meeting people, and a heck of a lot of fun.

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Opposition – Mirela Ivanova

We all remember that blissful and innocent time in Fresher’s week when we all thought rowing would be a fun thing to do. A nice, unique Oxford experience. ‘You’d be silly not to try it, right?’ they said. I mean, it’s almost like coming to Oxford and never drinking port. Or not owning a pair of chinos. Or never hearing yourself say something mildly pompous and realise that you might be worthy to go on Overheard of Oxford with all those other people you ridicule with your friends in the evening. You might as well not go to Oxford at all.

Weeks fly in Michaelmas and you begin to realise that your friends seem unusually tired in the early mornings. Sometimes you catch them coming in on a cold and wet winter morning, shivering in sportswear as you pop over to have a luxurious shower after an unjustifiable lie in on a Wednesday morning. But you don’t really think about it too much. Maybe they like jogging in the morning. Maybe that’s why they are so much slimmer and sportier looking than you. Maybe you should start eating less chocolate. You giggle and forget the incident even occurred.

As Hilary dawns on the beautiful Oxford spires and the dry winter has spread its arms over the All Souls towers, you rejoice in the beauty of Oxford in the snow. In fact, work is probably getting you down and as the concept you have now spent half of your year at Oxford avoiding all those things you thought you’d come here to do all you really need is a warm evening at the pub with your friends. But after dinner, you find them in that similar sportswear, leaving your halls of residence in the dark cold night. You wonder now. It’s getting a little suspicious. ‘Where are you guys off to?’ you ask, innocently. ‘Ergs’ they say, with a slight sense of despair in their eyes. As you contemplate that grunt of an unfamiliar sound, and assume maybe they were burping or had something stuck in their throat, you are suddenly mildly offended. They don’t even have the guts to explain themselves to you. You thought they were your friends, but maybe they never actually liked you at all. Maybe no-one likes you. Maybe Oxford was never the right place. You smile the thought away, as you remember telling your tute partner that Ethelred was your favourite palette of red earlier that day. You were made to be here, you self-assure desperately.

Before you know it, it’s Trinity. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, your college garden seduces you out of the library and you are drinking pimms in your beige clothing reminiscing on your foolish younger self which thought Oxford will change them. Ah, the silly things. Not less than a week passes however, and your friends seem to evaporate entirely. Whenever you see them, they are spiritless zombies sitting in hall staring blankly into the distance, until they occasionally blurt out another sound or too, like ‘cox box’ or ‘bump’ or ‘take a tap’ or ‘blade’. Sometimes, someone in hall would casually say a random word like ‘orange’ and they would all tense up in a paroxysm of muscle tension, but their faces show the fear and helplessness inside.

That was it. They were turned.

You ask them why they do it. The repeated, brain-draining, dull and painful action of pressing a blade into some water which is, in the end, nothing more than an inefficient mode of transport. The early cold spring mornings. The freezing water splashing their damp clothes. The rigid structure of the competitions, organised in the most arbitrary way to make winning disproportionately harder from the second position than from the very last. The little person at the back of the boat screaming in their face as they, clumsily in unison, press on and hum along to Les Miserables’ Look Down. “Look down, look down. Don’t look ‘em in the eye…”

They stare back at you. Empty looks. Distracted gazes. ‘It’s fun.’ They say, as they rub the sores of their bruised palms. ‘I think,’

They don’t know.

Their indoctrination was complete. Under your very radar, the cheerful and innocent freshers you met in Michaelmas had disappeared. They had gone into Boat House 101 and they were never coming back.

You see them again, sitting by a boat house. Crowds fill the spaces around them. It’s summer eights. The races are about to start. Their M3 team is racing. They stare, calmly. Then, the team before their boat crashes into a tree and they bump. This was the last day. They’d gotten blades.

Uncontrollably, unconsciously, violently and pertinaciously they all jump in a convulsion of anger layered joy. They’re standing on their seats staring at the river, they arms crossed in an X over their heads. “I LOVE YOU, ROWING!”

You never see them again.

Is cheating really a bad thing in our children?

Is cheating really a bad thing in our children?

A recent BBC study showed that eight-to sixteen year old children see little wrong with cheating due to a ‘win-at-all-costs’ culture imposed by their friends and parents. Over a third of the 1,002 questioned said they felt no remorse when winning by cheating and a quarter thought their teammates would cheat if they could get away with it. Harmless as it may seem now, there is an uproar surrounding but quietly awaiting a study of the kind. In fact, I can already hear the feminist chant outside children sports clubs – “Today it’s croquet, tomorrow he’ll cheat on his wife”. Or the humanitarian groups outside nuclear stations with massive posters claiming – “No remorse in football today, no remorse in nuclear bombings tomorrow”. Even the Daily Mail could have a good go – “Children avoid real work from age eight. A vile product of the National Welfare system.”

The problem remains, however, that this won’t happen. And rightly so, the news is hardly shocking – society has developed slowly but certainly around a culture which does not reward talent, creativity or desert – it awards winning. Lots of it. People, hobbies, jobs, governments, sport, video games are all centred around a mind-numbingly simplistic yes/no binary which ensures you will be either loved or hated, rich or poor, a winner or a loser. In fact, it is rather upsetting that such culture is embedded in the youth from as early as age eight. Not merely because of the societal moral connotations – namely, that morality in the 21st century means cheating when you can get away with it. The problem will be most harmful to individuals. To the kid that never gets picked for the football team, or the one that always loses at basketball or the one that never really got the rules of cricket. Psychologically, there is no real reason to mentally condition a ten year old that winning in sport is an important achievement in life. Especially since it isn’t – the most you get is a tacky fake medal on a silly string, or a cheap glass plate for your parents to smugly display in the living room. In fact, in either case, statistically the child will probably lose more matches than he wins, therefore constantly assuming that he is underperforming or underachieving. It will be a self-perpetuating cycle of mild approval after a won tennis game followed by three losses; until he either loses all motivation and stops, or is motivated so extremely that achieving a point when winning becomes standard, but also meaningless.

Sports are just one thing which follows this kind of motivational pattern. And it is no wonder a head teacher recently told me that her son wanted to drop his fifth instrument, the clarinet, and so she had to sit him down and tell him that if he gives up the clarinet he will give up in everything in life. She essentially told him that if he fails at playing a useless woodwind instrument, he will end up a homeless alcoholic under a bench in the depths of east London. She also said he is doing much better now.

This tendency to idealise sport and musical ability, and any kind of winning and hard work is quite pivotal in modern society. Work, we are told, is good for us and we must do as much of it as possible (unless, that is, cheating is available). The problem that remains, however, very aptly outlined by Bertrand Russell in his ‘In defence of Idleness’ is that we are essentially taught to hate idleness up to the extent to which we cannot even enjoy leisure. Not that we have time for it anyway. But children do, so rather than breeding workaholics we need to let children enjoy the very few moments of blissful idleness in life, before it all goes downhill and you find yourself reading about twelfth century church reform in the library at two o’clock in the morning. Or is that just me?

 

Blues streak past lacklustre Brookes

Blues streak past lacklustre Brookes

The Oxford Blues thrashed rivals Brookes in the second annual Xchanging Varsity football match, with a streaker stealing the headlines once again.

A Brookes fan, believed to be the same streaker from last year’s Varsity encounter, vaulted the security barrier with minutes remaining in the match before slipping past the stewards onto the pitch. After high-fiving Brookes ‘keeper Sam Cole, the exhibitionist made for the trees but was later seen being escorted off the Iffley Road premises by police.

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“Sit down shut up!” The streaker defiantly evades capture.

On the field, four first half goals were enough to sink the Blues’ near neighbours in a pulsating first half encounter. A shaky Brookes back line was guilty of letting a ruthless Oxford attack punish four sloppy errors, the first coming after just two minutes when Ed Grimer raced clear to open the scoring.

Mark Jamison, Peder Beck-Friis and Julian Austin fired the Blues into a 4-0 lead with a Brookes consolation reducing the arrears before the break.

A soft penalty set up a nervy second half but substitute Adam Healy put the result beyond doubt with a late header from an Alex Biggs corner.

streaker

Why always me? A streaker with “F**k off Oxford Uni” emblazoned makes the back pages at last year’s match.

Pick up next week’s Oxford Student for all the reaction from tonight’s match.

PHOTOS/ Dan Fox & Matt Handley

 

Between rock and a hard piece

Between rock and a hard piece

Will Upton discusses the similarities between sport and music.

Drugs are used in professional music. Of course some of them, notably alcohol and recreational drugs, are responsible for interminable improvised solos. Miles Davis getting into a lift and mistaking it for his Ferrari is a metaphor for wasted talent on many levels. The use of beta-blockers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is well known in orchestral players, and if they produce improved performance we should probably not be too concerned.

As an avid fan of cycling, the recent revelations about doping were about as little a surprise to me as the ‘long awaited’ media exposure of the Classic (sic) Brit Awards as a sham. What does need to be said is that it doesn’t matter that they are a sham. Just as the pop charts have long been consigned to the whims of 14-year-old girls, so we should abandon the classical charts to fans of 50 Shades of Grey, Britain’s Got Talent, John Williams soundtracks, and readers of the Daily Mail. Similarly, fans of cycling should probably move on from the Tour de France and simply enjoy their own drug free, recreational version of the sport.

The simultaneous arrival of these exposés did prompt me to think about some of the similarities between sport and music, and that perhaps the classical music equivalent of doping is having a ruthless agent and a TV friendly face. Short skirts have also furthered the career of a well-known string quartet who can frequently be seen waving skeletal electric violins, swathed in dry ice; not all promotion of classical music is good promotion – Gareth Malone take note. I may have an axe to grind here. I was told early in my playing career (I was a late starter at nine years old) that to master an instrument or a sport requires 10,000 hours of practice by the age of 21.

The danger of this two-tier approach is that it encourages self-righteous fans of serious classical music to think that commercialisation is limited only to its vacuous, light music, doppelganger. With its timeless façade, classical music is ever so good at concealing the extent to which it is increasingly prey to exterior motives, the cult of celebrity, and the quest for the next big thing. Increasingly, I would urge listeners to ask what money is underwriting the activities that do come to prominence, and what interests are tied up with their funding. Perhaps ultimately, all that matters is the music, and without the industry performers would never get through to us – what if Brian Epstein hadn’t bought thousands of copies of the Beatles first single?

Most performers don’t reach the pinnacle of their art until middle age, by which time most athletes are consigned to the commentary box. My experience of great virtuoso players of all ages, and I have been lucky enough to interview many of them, is that they practice as diligently as Oxford students are expected to study – using the maxim, ‘If I miss one day’s practice I know it, if I miss two days the orchestra knows, if I miss three the audience knows.’

 

Will’s Weekly Recommendation

Whether last week’s recommendation, Mysteries of the Macabre, is music or theatre of the absurd doesn’t matter, but the Beckettian undertones are clear for all to see. It is rare for anything in art these days to shock or titillate, or to be witty and ironic, so the fact that Ligeti’s work continues to achieve all of these, over 30 years since it was written, is remarkable.

This week I urge you to listen to Toru Takemitsu’s Garden Rain for brass ensemble, available on YouTube and Spotify.

PHOTO / e-MagineArt.com