What do you get when you mix Mozart with Kelly Clarkson? Well-Strung. Yes it's an obvious play on words. And a catchy one at that. It's a good thing the musical quartet has some talent to back up the name, otherwise it'd be just a gimmick. But it's their unique performances that turn listeners into fans and keeps them coming back.
From Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga to Keisha and Adele, these singing string players are blending classical musical with modern day pop attracting audiences of both genres.
"I thought it would be cool to mash up classical selections, and juxtapose top 40 stuff and [highlight] the similarities and differences and blur the lines between classical and Top 40," said the group's founder Chris Marchant, 29.
And it doesn't hurt that they're "hunky," as Out Magazine and Huffington Post has called them in the past. Examples of their music can be found on their website. One of their videos "Mozart Meets Kelly Clarkson" infuses a classical string arrangement with Clarkson's megahit "Since U Been Gone."
Marchant (second violinist) came up with the idea for the group while he was performing in Provincetown in 2010. It's there that he met a director, and as they started to collaborate, the idea took shape. It wasn't until later though, while in Australia for a photo shoot, that Marchant came up with the name Well-Strung, or rather took it for his own.
"The name for the group came from a photo shoot I did for DNA magazine in Australia," he explained. "It was the music issue and they titled my photo shoot well-strung ... and so I thought that would be a good name for the group."
And that's how Well-Strung was born. During that time Marchant was actively looking for other string players that could also sing, which was no small feat.
Daniel Shevlin (cellist), 30, was Marchant's first find.
"Finding string players that sing is not the easiest task," Shevlin said. Together, Marchant and Shevlin held auditions where they found Edmund Bagnell (first violinist), 27, who happened to be their first audition, and Trevor Wadleigh (violist), 26, who happened to be their last audition.
But the all-gay boy band wasn't looking to be all gay; things just turned out that way.
"Before we found Trevor, we had originally hired another guy, but he injured his wrist. He was straight," Marchant said.
Officially the group formed in the winter of 2012.
And if their upcoming show locations are any indication of success they're doing quite well. They have performances scheduled in London, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Atlanta.
"I think we've always had a super positive reception. Not everyone that comes to our concert or hears our music knows what to expect. But we've only heard really, really great things," said Trevor Wadleigh. "I think everybody walks away at least a little bit of a fan. And they always come in greater understanding of classical music or never having been to a string quartet performance."
In that way the four guys agree that their performances are educational, introducing classical music lovers to pop music and vice versa.
Their individual backgrounds are similar. All of them picked up their instruments early on and fell in love with them. Each of them have some background in musical theater. And music helped all of them cope with normal high school pressures as well as growing up gay. None of them really fit in throughout their grade school years, but they found a musical community that embraced them.
"I wasn't a popular kid, and music helped me cope with that, helped me with whatever was going on in life," Marchant said. While Wadleigh added: "music was something of a nice escape for me. It was different. Something that I had felt proud of doing and joining the youth symphony, a group of like minded people that I really liked, really enjoyed being around was my salvation from school where I didn't fit in so much."
As for their future, Marchant hopes that one day they'll have a sit down run.
"That would afford us the opportunity to really put in practice hours and develop new material and make the show as good as possible," he said.
The Boys in the Band
Originally From: South Carolina
Bagnell (first violinist) played Tobias in the first national tour of Sweeney Todd directed by John Doyle. Recent credits include Toby in Gian Carlo Menotti's The Medium starring Varla Jean Merman (The Art House in Provincetown), Charlie Brown in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Summer Theater of New Canaan), Charlie in The Big Holiday Broadcast of 1959 written by Joanna Gleason (Fairfield Theater Company), and Oramel Howland in The Great Unknown written by Jim Wann (Pump Boys and Dinettes) and Bill Hauptman (Big River) as a part of NYMF.
Originally From: Ohio
Marchant (second violinist) is grew up singing and playing violin, but was not involved with theatre until he graduated Malone University in Canton, OH. Since then, he has been involved in a number of productions using his talents as a vocalist, actor, and musician. Favorite productions include Tobias ("Sweeney Todd," nat'l tour), violinist ("Spring Awakening" nat'l tour), Dennis ("Sanders Family Christmas"), and Provincetown's "Naked Boys Singing."
Originally From: New Jersey
Shevlin has had a very varied and geographically spread-out theatrical career. He has appeared off-Broadway in The Sandbox written and directed by Edward Albee, had toured the U.S. and Asia in productions of Rent and Cabaret (Studio 54 version), and has worked regionally as both an actor and cellist in many theaters including the Arvada Center (CO), The Maltz-Jupiter Theatre (FL), Riverside Theatre (FL), and Mason Street Warehouse (MI) to name a few. A New Jersey native, Daniel recently moved back east to NYC after having a much needed and wonderful detour to Denver for almost two years.
Originally From: Seattle
Wadleigh is from Seattle and currently a member of The String Collective of New York. He has performed at Carnegie Hall, taught viola at the University of Puget Sound Community Music Community and is also a co-founder of the Puget Sound Animal Rescue.