Passionate performance and rigorous rehearsing reached its culmination at Saturday evening’s 50th annual Concerto-Aria Concert competition.

Held in Sauder Concert Hall, 446 students, family and friends witnessed a musical event highlighting six student performers. Students audition in the fall and are judged by the Goshen College music faculty.

Concertos feature soloists backed by the orchestra, and it involves intense rehearsal for both parties.

“Concertos are some of the most difficult things for orchestral musicians to play,” said Gregg Thaller, orchestra director. “They’ve got to count beats and measures, watch the conductor, and listen like crazy—all at the same time while playing the notes.”

The categories suitable for entries include piano, instrumental, voice (aria), composition and ensemble.

Jay Mast, a sophomore, stepped to the stage first with “Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major” by composer Franz Liszt.

Afterwards, he said he felt “so happy—ecstatic.”

“While I was playing,” he said, “it was like I didn’t want to be anywhere else, doing anything else, feeling anything else and with any other people.”

Mast has wanted to play with an orchestra ever since he could remember.

“I am blessed to have had that dream fulfilled.”

Cascading arpeggios and richly-layered chords marked the second piano concerto of the evening, performed by Lydia Short. Typical of French composer Camille Saint-Saens, the “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor” consisted of richly-layered chords and melodies.

Not often seen soloing, Allen Shenk brought the French horn to center-stage with “Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat Major” by W.A. Mozart. Violins began the melody, then handed it off to the orchestra, which in turn gave it to the horn. An allegro piece, the concerto was executed at a high pace and filled out with the orchestra behind him.

The energy of Shenk’s allegro was carried into the next performance—a duet by soprano Carrie Rivera and baritone Martin Brubaker.

Adding a comical touch to the concert, “Papageno!Papagena!” from the opera Die Zauberflote showed two newlyweds dreaming about all the little Papageno-kids they will have together. In the last hurrah, Brubaker whisked Rivera offstage at the end of the song. Asked about the theatrical exit, Brubaker commented with emphasis, “It wasn’t my idea. It was Scott Hochstetler’s [GC music professor] idea.”

Elspeth Stalter’s violin raised the audience out of their seats, in her rendition of Vieuxtemps’ “Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Minor,” or “Le Gretry.” A returning theme was intertwined with contrasting sections of face-paced fingering, with moments of haunting melody. After a standing ovation, Stalter exited the stage only to re-enter and join the orchestra for the last song in the concert.

Orchestra director Gregg Thaller commented before the orchestra’s ending number, Tchaikovsky’s “Marche Slave,” claiming that the Concerto-Aria is the highlight of the year for him.

“This competition helps the entire campus,” explained Director Thaller, “because it shows to them and the world what our students at Goshen College can really do: perform high-quality music at a professional level. The entire campus can be proud that our liberal arts college has diverse, hard-working, down-to-earth students of all majors who can musically ‘knock you over’ when they perform!”

Student Jake Miller was one audience member who was “knocked over” by the performances.

“I liked the end of the Tchaikovsky. It was really loud. I like really loud!”

Next up on the musical platter for the Goshen College Music Department: the Winter Choral Concert (also in Sauder Hall this Saturday, Feb. 13 at 7:30pm).