School of Music Faculty Member Sings With Coldplay on ‘SNL’
Photo by Will Heath/NBC
If you stayed up late enough last weekend to catch Coldplay’s performances on “Saturday Night Live,” then you spotted—and heard—a proud Terp: Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor Jason Max Ferdinand D.M.A. ’15, who along with his eponymous choir backed up lead singer Chris Martin during the band’s two spots.
Singer Jacob Collier, who had previously worked with Coldplay, was the link to the Jason Max Ferdinand Singers. A longtime friend of Ferdinand, Collier had already played some of the choral group’s recordings for Martin, so when the British rocker needed some backup singers for this weekend’s performance, he asked Collier to reach out to Ferdinand.
“It was pretty surreal when Jacob mentioned it (about two weeks ago), but it became real when Chris himself called me and said, ‘We need 24 singers,’” said Ferdinand.
That was easily done; he turned to his group of 36 singers to see who could make the performance. Ferdinand, who returned to the University of Maryland last fall to lead UMD’s choral program, founded the professional choir in 2021. It performs in styles ranging from the baroque to contemporary, with members including full-time musicians and music educators, undergraduate and graduate students, even a law student and a police officer.
The group got the musical scores on Wednesday and arrived in New York City late on Thursday night. They immediately started rehearsing, polishing their vocals and blocking the performances. Martin “is very clear on what he wants to see and hear, and he’s very clear on that in a very pleasant way,” said Ferdinand.
During rehearsals, Martin offered direction on how he wanted both the camera and the performers to move. For their first song, “The Astronaut,” Martin wanted lots of movement and motion, reflecting the upbeat feeling of the song. For their second spot, a combination of new song “Human Heart” and Coldplay classic “Fix You,” the presentation was more serious and still, appropriate for the more tear-jerking songs.
Ferdinand said the show’s production backstage was “organized chaos” and being a part of it all was “incredible.”
“All the performers quickly gained this mutual respect for one another, and we totally admire what Coldplay does,” he said.
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