Speaking Up in Concert: 20th Century Composers Take on Human Rights

A First Rites Event

A performance of the Dayton Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra

Date: October 3, 2013

Time: 8:00 pm

Location: Boll Theatre, located on the first floor of Kennedy Union

Sponsor: The University of Dayton Arts Series

 Eileen Carr (email) >>

Phone number: 937-229-2787

Website: The Arts Series (www) >>

Appearing on the University's campus for the first time in 40 years, the DPO's Chamber Orchestra returned for a compelling concert to respond to questions raised by the "Rites. Rights. Writes." initiative. What does it mean to be human? Can the arts be a force for good? The program for this concert responds to this theme, presenting two powerful works from the 20th century.

Led by DPO Music Director Neal Gittleman, the ensemble performed Dimitri Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony #1, composed originally as a string quartet during a trip to Dresden in 1960 and dedicated "in memory of the victims of fascism and war." Also featured was modern composer Frederic Rzewski's Coming Together/Attica, inspired by the Attica Prison uprising in New York of 1971. The score incorporates a text written by an inmate from the time, as he documents both his inner conflict and the real chaos experience of prison life. Very different in style, these works grapple with the tension and ongoing struggle of mankind to live a just and peaceful life. Featured narrator for the Rzewski (pronounced ZHEV-ski) performance was Dr. Donald Polzella, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies for the College of Arts and Sciences.


Frederic Rzewski (pronounced ZHEV-ski) is a noted American composer - born 1938 in Massachusetts - who often takes his inspiration from modern history and is a passionate advocate of human rights. Coming Together/Attica reflects these interests: it was written in response to the historic Attica prison uprising in upstate New York in 1971. Although today it may seem a footnote, at the time the event gripped the nation. Protesting what they felt were inhumane conditions, 1000 prisoners in this maximum security facility seized control and took 33 staff hostage. After prolonged negotiations over the course of four days, Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered the National Guard to take control. In the course of the operation, the Guard killed three dozen people, including 10 correctional officers and civilian employees. The controversial events resulted in a national re-evaluation of prison conditions.

To learn more about this historic event, visit these sites:


Local News Reporter Looks Back on the Attica Prison Riot

Richard Funke was a young reporter for a talk radio station in Rochester, New York when the Attica uprising began.  As he recounted, he was called that first morning and instructed to "Grab a tape recorder and get to Attica, the inmates have taken over the prison." This video account, made on his retirement from NBC-TV affiliate WHEC in 2012, provides a first-hand recollection of an event that rocked the nation and initiated widespread prison reform.  Video: 3:08


Attica Prison Riot on PBS (www) >>

This video features two different perspectives. Robert Douglass served as Counsel and later Secretary to Governor Nelson Rockefeller from 1965-1972. He was sent to Attica during the uprising to represent the Governor and to help quell the riot and appease the inmates. Frank Smith was an inmate at the prison and acted as a guard during the uprising, trying to assure that none of the officials sent in to negotiate with the prisoners were harmed.  Video: 16:22


A Talking History Project (www) >>

With the cooperation of the New York State Archives and the Pacifica Foundation, this site gathers together an extensive collection of audio, video, and textual records of the Attica rebellion - including written transcripts and audio recordings of the McKay Commission hearings as well as dozens of audio documentaries produced by the Pacifica Foundation.  Also included are perspectives by historians.