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OCC Director of Choral Activities Andrew Pittman Earns Doctorate Degree

Dr. Andrew Pittman PhotoOlney Central College Director of Choral Activities Andrew Pittman completed his doctoral work this summer.

Pittman received his Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Conducting (Choral Emphasis) from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. It was the culmination of more than a decade’s work, which included two and a half years of coursework in residence, comprehensive and oral exams, a 175-page dissertation document along with four public recitals.

During the final recital, known as a Lecture-Recital, Pittman presented a lecture based on his dissertation, which focused on the choral music and composition style of the internationally recognized pianist and published composer Dr. Vladimir Pleshakov. Pittman also conducted a nine-member vocal ensemble to demonstrate musical points in the discussion.

A friend assisted Pittman in gathering top vocalists from around the country to perform the works, which are written in the Church Slavonic, the conservative liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church. Members performed selections by iconic Russian composers Tchaikovsky, Chesnokov and Rachmaninoff, which set the tone for Pleshakov’s compositions.

“It is the hardest music I have ever come across,” Pittman said. “It is written at such a high level, it required absolutely top-tier expert singers. It was a truly elite ensemble and the rehearsals were just magical.”

The choir sang Pleshakov’s Cherubic Hymn, his most recognizable work from his Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, The First, Second, and Third Antiphons, The Trisagion Hymn, The Hymn to the Mother of God, The Lord’s Prayer, and Communion Hymn, Psalm 150.

Pittman is thrilled to bring Pleshakov’s music to academic circles. He spent more than two years corresponding by email with the composer, who now resides in Charleston, S.C.

“He was answering all of my questions in these long, drawn out, beautiful narratives that included wonderful details,” Pittman said.

In his responses, the 85-year-old piano virtuoso, whose eclectic compositional style combines elements of Russian, French and English influences, shared his thoughts not only on music, but life and the current academic climate.

Pleshakov said, referring to his teenage years, “I did most of my homework on the bus. Occasionally the results were quite hurried, and did not endear me to the teachers who were dedicated people. In those days, knowledge was still prized for its own sake. Things did change radically around 1958 and knowledge became valuable only if it led directly to monetary gains.”

The correspondence has enabled Pittman to amass the most complete and comprehensive biography of Pleshakov.

For many, Pleshakov’s life story is as compelling as his musicianship. His family fled the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution of 1917, joining an enclave of White Russians in China. The group, who became known as the “White Russians of Shanghai,” retained their religious and cultural practices, which were virtually wiped out in their homeland under Soviet control. When the Communists came to power in China, Pleshakov and his family uprooted again, this time relocating to Australia, where he began his career, shortly before moving to California.

While health issues have sidelined Pleshakov, he is recovering and plans to begin touring again with his wife, pianist Elena Winther. Pittman is excited to announce that Pleshakov will kick off his tour at OCC, performing during the Community Choir Concert on Dec. 8.

“Dr. Pleshakov knew I was doing a concert,” Pittman said. “He told me, ‘If you are planning to do any of my music, my wife and I would love to be in attendance. After all you have done for me and my music, I would like to pay you back by playing at the concert.’”

The 7 p.m. event will feature more than 100 singers from the community including the OCC Concert Choir, OCC Community Choir and the Richland County High School Choir.

“It is very exciting for us to have someone of his caliber here,” Pittman added. “This will truly be a communitywide event and a once in a lifetime opportunity for our area.”

Pleshakov will play Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, a 22-minute piece for piano, orchestral and choir. Originally written as a precursor to welcome the festive Christmas season, the audience will recognize within the work Beethoven’s first draft of Ode to Joy, later heard in his 9th Symphony.

“It is an exciting piece,” Pittman said. “It becomes more thrilling every time I listen to it.”

The audience also will be treated that evening to Pleshakov’s Cherubic Hymn, It is Truly Fitting and Psalm 150, O Praise the Lord.

In addition to performing, Pleshakov will give a two-hour master class the morning of Dec. 7. Pittman plans to invite area high school students for the event, which will include a lesson in composing along with a question and answer session.

Originally from North Carolina, Pittman earned a B.M. in Music Education from East Carolina University and a M.M. in Voice Performance from New England Conservatory of Music. He joined OCC in 2013.


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