Saturday, November 5, 2011

François Clemmons Sings Opera & Spirituals; holds 'Twilight Chair' in Dept. of Music, Middlebury College, Vermont

[Prof. François S. Clemmons]

Almeta Speaks of Paris, France tells AfriClassical about François Clemmons, who is a tenor and Professor in the Department of Music of Middlebury College, Vermont. She writes, in part:

“Before he embarked on his academic career he sang Opera and Classical concert world-wide. He also had a recurring role...on Mr. Rogers for PBS. He sits the very prestigious Twilight Chair in the Music Department of Middlebury College.

“The Chair is named for the first Vermont free-born African-American to earn a college degree in America, Alexander Lucius Twilight (Sept. 26, 1795 - June 19, 1857). Twilight attended Middlebury College from 1821 and graduated 1823.”

François Scarborough Clemmons refers to himself as “Diva Man” at his website,

Middlebury College
Department of Music
Alexander Twilight Artist-in-Residence
“François S. Clemmons was born April 23, 1945 in Birmingham, Alabama and moved with his family to Youngstown, Ohio at an early age. When it was discovered that he had a singing voice of purity and power, he began singing at Church functions and at a nursery school. His first songs were the Spirituals of pre-Civil War America, which he had heard his mother sing at home while she was working. He branched out to sing for different community groups, and for a while, was even the lead singer of a rock 'n' roll group called the 'Jokers'.

“He earned his Bachelor of Music degree at Oberlin College (Ohio) and his Master of Fine Arts at Carnegie-Mellon University (Pennsylvania). During graduation exercises in 1996 at Middlebury College in Vermont, he was given the honorary degree of Doctor of Arts. In 1968 he won the regional Metropolitan Opera Auditions in Pittsburgh, and went on the Cleveland, Ohio where he won a position in the prestigious Metropolitan Opera Studio.

“He sang there for seven seasons performing over seventy roles with various companies such as: The New York City Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, Opera Ebony, Opera South, Toledo Opera, and Washington Civic Opera.”

“Clemmons has performed the role of 'Sportin' Life' from George Gershwin's Porgy & Bess over 100 times. His recording of the role on London Records with the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Lorin Maazel won a Grammy Award in 1973.”

“As Founder/Director of the world-famous Harlem Spiritual Ensemble, Maestro Clemmons performs regularly all over America, Europe, and Asia, carrying on his vision for preserving, sustaining and commissioning new and traditional arrangements of American Negro Spirituals for future generations. In 1996 Strube Verlag of Munich, Germany published a volume of American Negro Spirituals arranged by Dr. Clemmons entitled: Song For Today. In 1997 He commissioned an arrangement of Spirituals from composer Linda Twine, entitled ‘Changed My Name.’ They are published by Hinshaw Music. In 1999 Dr. Clemmons wrote the introduction to An Index to African American Spirituals for the Solo Voice compiled by Kathleen Abromeit and published by The Greenwood Publishing Group.”

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