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Orchestra con­certs are always team events. But at the Hillsdale College sym­phony orchestra’s two spring con­certs, four vir­tuosos will get the chance to shine solo.

Last Monday, the Music Department announced the winners of their annual con­certo and aria com­pe­tition. Out of the 23 hopefuls who audi­tioned, sophomore vio­linist Tova Forman and junior mezzo soprano Sarah Schutte were tapped to perform at the concert on March 9, while junior pianist Micah Heinz and junior soprano Katherine Scheu will perform on May 11.

Junior flautist Heather Wood­house and junior cellist Greg Farison tied for first runner-up.

A con­certo is a com­po­sition written for solo instrument and orchestra, making it one of the best show­cases for indi­vidual talent in an orchestral setting. Hillsdale’s orchestra has per­formed con­certos at their con­certs since the early 2000s, giving the college’s best vir­tuosos a spot­light to strut their stuff.

Sophomore vio­linist Tova Forman. | Courtesy

Forman, a student of Pro­fessor of Music Melissa Knecht, will perform Bela Bartok’s “Romanian Folk Dances” on the violin.

“I enjoy the chal­lenge of stepping out of the clas­sical, to a degree, and imi­tating the shepherd’s pipe,” Forman said. “You don’t get that strain of haunting wildness in clas­sical music, I think. The more I play Bartok, the more I want to share him.”

In addition to the tech­nical dif­fi­culty, the vocalists will face an extra chal­lenge in their per­for­mances: sum­moning their audience’s emo­tions with a song plucked from its operatic context.

Junior vocalist Sarah Schutte. | Courtesy

“You’re still trying to tell a story with the song,” Schutte said. “When people come to the concert, you’ll get program notes, but for the audition you just have to sell it. You know the context that you’re trying to portray, you need to figure out how to portray that emotion, too. You need to pick some­thing, you need to act it out, you need to be that char­acter. It may not be what that scene says, but it’s what you are trying to convey.”

Schutte will sing “Hör’ ich Cym­balk­länge,” a “Lied und Csardas” (song and dance) from Franz Lehár’s “Zige­uner­liebe” and an aria from Wolfgang Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” entitled “Smanie impla­cabili.”

Junior vocalist Katie Scheu. | Courtesy

Scheu will perform arias from a pair of operas: “Vissi D’Arte” from Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca” and “Klangë der Heimat” from Johann Strauss’ “Die Fle­d­ermaus.” One aria is comic; the other tragic.

“They couldn’t be more dif­ferent from each other,” Scheu said. “In the ‘Vissi D’Arte,’ the pro­tag­onist finds out that her boyfriend’s going to be exe­cuted unless she sleeps with this guy, the antag­onist. In the second, on a dif­ferent note, a woman decides that she thinks her husband is cheating on her, so she goes to a party that he’s going to and dresses up as a dif­ferent woman, to woo him and prove that he’s cheating on her — with her.”

One thing they do have in common with each other and with the other per­formers’ pieces — they’re hard.

“Both of the songs are total workouts,” Scheu said. “The first one is very con­trolled … Basi­cally, I hold a super high note for a really long time as loud as I can, and then in the same breath start to decrescendo and come down a couple notes. Then I just hold it there for a long time. So it’s really hard; it takes a ton of control and a very mature voice to sort of master it. I haven’t mas­tered it yet, but I’m getting close, which is fun.”

Heinz will perform the first movement Camille Saint-Saens’ Con­certo No. 5 in F Major, nick­named “The Egyptian.”

Junior pianist Micah Heinz. | Courtesy

“I first heard the piece in early 2016 when Pro­fessor Blackham sug­gested that I listen to Saint-Saens’ con­certos to get ideas for this com­pe­tition,” Heinz said. “I fell in love with the piece and became imme­di­ately obsessed with it. The com­poser does a mas­terful job of weaving the piano and orchestra parts together to emphasize the strengths of both, requiring them to depend on each other to create some­thing beau­tiful.”

Now that the winners have been announced, the per­formers have a few months to get acquainted with per­forming with the orchestra — and the orchestra can use that time to learn the music. It’s a process they’re looking forward to.

“I’m really excited about this oppor­tunity to perform with the orchestra,” Heinz said. “I’ve com­peted in similar com­pe­ti­tions before, but never won, so this is def­i­nitely a first for me.”