It's not often that you hear a classical musician refer to his craft as a feat akin to climbing Mount Everest; but apparently the two ventures are more similar than one would think.
Roger Cole, principal oboist with the Vancouver Symphony and the CBC Radio Orchestra since 1976, will be the guest artist at this weekend's Spring Breezes concerts.
Cole will tackle the soaring melodies in Richard Strauss' Concerto for oboe, a piece which is as beautiful as it is difficult to perform.
"This will be the third outing for the concerto in my 36-year career history," Cole noted.
"It is a very demanding piece, and it requires incredible stamina to perform," he said.
"The last time I performed this was 10 years ago. Musicians start to learn the concerto in high school," he added. "It takes a long time to get to the top of this so that you can enjoy the view."
Rosemary Thomson, OSO music director, added that the oboe is "the instrument that most closely resembles the human voice."
"Roger is a perfect choice for this piece," she said. "He is a beautiful player and this piece requires high quality and the ability to sustain the long, long lines within the concerto."
Strauss' soaring melodies are especially suited to the wind instruments that will be showcased at the Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon concerts.
"Strauss was in his 80s when he penned this," Thomson added.
"It was suggested to him by an American GI after the second World War, but initially Strauss said no to the idea of an oboe concerto, but he obviously changed his mind a year later and created this wonderful music."
"We oboe players love this piece, it's very approachable, has great melody and harmonies," Cole said. "It's quite the workout for the oboist, and it can only be done properly with a full orchestra."
Cole added he is looking forward to performing with the Okanagan Symphony for the first time, and was also "delighted to share the stage" with one of the wind musicians who is "a former student of mine," he said.
Playing the oboe does come with a few challenges that other musicians are not faced with, Cole said, as the twin reeds used to create the sound cannot be successfully manufactured.
"It's impossible to make such a small, thin reed commercially that results in making a truly good reed," he said.
"So oboists make their own. We like to quip that our work also comes with a built-in hobby--making reeds.
"I make perhaps 200-300 reeds each year, because the reeds are affected by differences and changes in humidity, temperature and even altitude," he said. "I probably spend as much time making reeds as practising."
Cole received his early musical training in Seattle and went on to become a scholarship student at Yale University and the Julliard School where he studied with the renowned American oboist Robert Bloom.
He currently performs in solo and chamber music recitals, and has appeared as soloist with the VSO and CBC orchestras, and has recorded a CD entitled The Expressive Oboe. He teaches at UBC and the Vancouver Academy of Music and is senior conductor of the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra.
In choosing the evening's program, Thomson said she wanted to bring the soaring and bright music of Strauss and Mozart together as well as showcasing the wind section of the OSO.
The orchestra will play Mozart's Serenade for Wind Octet and Linz, as well as Honegger's Pastoral d'Ete.
"It's interesting to note that Mozart was such a genius that he wrote his symphonies in one go, he didn't change or rewrite, he just wrote it straight down," she explained. "This piece is very easy to listen to, as is the concerto and both speak to the heart and have the warmth and promise of spring."
What: Spring Breezes, performed by the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra with featured guest Oboist Roger Cole.
When & Where: Friday, March 1 at 8 p.m., Kelowna Community Theatre, Kelowna; Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m., Cleland Theatre, Penticton; Sunday, March 3 at 7 p.m., Vernon Performing Arts Centre, Vernon.
Tickets: Kelowna Actors Studio box office, 250-862-2867; Wine Country Information Centre, 250-276-2170; TicketSeller, 250-549-7469; and online, okanagansymphony.com.