François Clemmons, founder of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble and a professionally trained operatic tenor, will present a concert at 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 20, in Convocation Hall on the Sewanee campus. Clemmons is perhaps best known for the role of Officer Clemmons, a friendly neighborhood policeman, on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning children's television show “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.” He learned traditional spirituals from his mother, who sang as she worked around the house.
After earning a master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University, Clemmons joined the company of the Metropolitan Opera Studio, playing more than 70 classical and opera roles around the world. Clemmons has performed his favorite role, Sportin’ Life in “Porgy and Bess,” more than 200 times, earning a Grammy award for his recording of the role. He founded the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble to showcase the spirituals he first learned as a child. It is dedicated to “preserving, sustaining and commissioning new and traditional arrangements of American Negro Spirituals for future generations.” Clemmons retired a few years ago as Artist in Residence at Middlebury College, and continues to perform regularly in America, Europe, and Asia.