The Clemmons Consort to Perform at the Middlebury College Center for the Arts on March 15 — Program will feature songs of American Composers Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland

The Clemmons Consort, led by Middlebury College Twilight Artist-in-Residence François Clemmons, will perform a chamber music concert titled “Remembering—the Music of Barber and Copland” on Wednesday, March 15 at 8 p.m. The event will take place in the Concert Hall in the Middlebury College Center for the Arts on South Main Street (Route 30). The Consort also includes Johannes Wallman, piano; Sean Schulich, flute; and Robert DiPietro, percussion. This concert marks the group’s continuing exploration of works by American composers, and is the Consort’s second appearance at the College. The concert is free and open to the public.

The program will include Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” and Aaron Copland’s “Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson.” Clemmons met Copland in 1975 and has been impressed with his musical insights ever since. “Both men have given us musical settings that are at the heart of rural, early America … but still cannot supply the whole picture. And like me, if you’ve lived a little and experienced a lot, you know that nothing ever really does. We’re trying to fill a special niche with this concert,” said Clemmons. “Performing a repertoire of chamber music, rather than works with full orchestration, adds color and a new timbre to this body of work.”

Clemmons’ talents as a singer and a musician—he is the founder and leader of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble—enrich the experience that he brings to his many roles at the College. He recently taught a winter term course, “The History of the American Negro Spiritual and Its Influence on Western Civilization.” Clemmons also lectures in history classes, serves as an advisor to students, performs at campus and town events, and directs the Middlebury College Choir. He was awarded an honorary doctor of arts degree from Middlebury College in 1996.

Clemmons’ big break as a singer came in 1968 when he won the regional auditions in Pittsburgh for New York’s Metropolitan Opera. This achievement allowed him to go on to the next level of competition in Cleveland, Ohio, where he won a position in the Metropolitan Opera Studio. He sang with the studio for seven seasons, performing over 70 roles with various other companies across the country, from the New York City Opera to the Cincinnati Opera. In addition, he has sung with numerous orchestras, including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Clemmons has performed the role of Sportin’ Life from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” more than 100 times. His recording of the role on London Records with the Cleveland Orchestra won a Grammy Award in 1973.

A versatile entertainer, Clemmons created and performed the role of the friendly police officer, Officer Clemmons, for 25 years on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning television program “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The current generation of young children is now enjoying Officer Clemmons on reruns of the show.

The concert is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. A pre-performance dinner will be held at Rehearsals Cafe in the Center for the Arts beginning at 6:30 p.m. For dinner reservations, call the College box office at 802-443-6433.