Arts » Music

Popssical Performers :: String Quartet Well-Strung Returns to Feinstein's at the Nikko

by David Elijah-Nahmod
Sunday Jan 14, 2018

The string quartet Well-Strung has built up quite an impressive resumé since forming in 2012. In addition to previous engagements at Feinstein's at the Nikko, these four musically talented hunks have twice performed with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and with the New York Gay Men's Chorus. They've been invited to perform at the Vatican, for President Barack Obama, and for presidential candidate Hilary Clinton. They'll return to San Francisco at Feinstein's at the Nikko from January 18-20.

Well-Strung has graced concert stages around the world, appearing with Broadway superstars such as Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald and Neil Patrick Harris. They've attracted a great deal of attention in their own right, playing to appreciative crowds wherever they go.

The group consists of four very hunky guys: Edmund Bagnell (1st violin), Chris Marchant (2nd violin), Daniel Shevlin (cello) and Trevor Wadleigh (viola). And if you think their name sounds a little "naughty," you could be right.

"We hope the name speaks to our sense of humor," Bagnell said in a group interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

"We love puns, and we're all men, so...." added Shevlin.

When they appear at Feinstein's, the guys will be performing pop/classical mash-ups. Hits by Stevie Nicks, Queen, The Beatles, Lady Gaga, and others will take on a new meaning when they're heard in Well Strung's distinctive, classical style. Broadway and classical standards will also be in included in the show.

Shevlin describes the group's sound as "popssical, peppered with anecdotes about the music or the artists," he said. "And the usual amount of charm and humor that only four guys named Well-Strung could provide."

They addressed being openly gay, which they have been from the beginning. "Our gay identities do not define our music," said Bagnell. "But it certainly informs who we are as individuals and that we are happy to be gay individuals publicly. We are proud of who we are, and we hope that speaks for itself."

"I can't imagine growing up a straight white male in Ohio and still pursuing a career in a string quartet boy band," said Marchant. "So I guess our sexualities are very influenced by it. Because we are four gay men who live together, our humor tends to lend itself to that demographic."

Wadleigh and Marchant have taken their act beyond the Well Strung sphere. Both recently appeared together on CBS' competitive reality show The Amazing Race.

"I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to race around the world with my great friend and colleague," Marchant said. "We definitely hope the race will allow some greater visibility for the quartet. But Trevor and I had so much fun running the race regardless of that. We are both really competitive and had so much fun challenging ourselves and being silly while racing. It's also a nice feeling, in some ways, to be chosen to represent America to the rest of the world. I was proud to do that as a gay man and as a musician."

Marchant is also known for showing a little skin, which he did in a photo shoot some years back. Those photos ended up influencing the band's name. Marchant bemusedly recalls giving his all for the camera-though the photo did include a strategically placed violin.

"That infamous photo shoot," he said. "I believe that took place in 2011. The picture was taken for DNA Magazine for their music issue. They did a photo spread on me and an interview, in which I talk about wanting to start a classical/pop string quartet. They titled the photo spread Well Strung, and the name stuck."

As a group, Well Strung group has been quite the success story. The guys are delighted to be bringing their act back to San Francisco. Shevlin spoke of what he hopes audiences will take from the show. "I would like them to leave with different thoughts on their preconceived opinions of music," he said. "For example, if they are pop fans, I want them to have a new appreciation for classical. And if they are classical fans, I want them to walk away thinking 'I never realized how much I could enjoy a Britney Spears song.'"

"We're a little bit of everything," said Bagnell. "Our sound is definitely based in the classical music tradition, but with a contemporary pop sensibility layered on top of that. "Our sound can adapt to many different styles, which is probably my favorite thing about what we do. It speaks to how versatile these string instruments, developed in the 17th century, can surprisingly be."

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