Boy band meets Beethoven

Well-Strung at Springfield Arts Council

By Katie Christoff

Photo: Well-Strung will perform on Nov. 22 at the Springfield Arts Council; photo: Scott Henrichsen

How many concerts provide the music of Mozart and Lady Gaga in one sitting?

Well-Strung, performing at the Springfield Arts Council on Nov. 22, seeks to create a unique combination of boy band and string quartet through their music. The all-male group, which has received national recognition from The New York Times and the Today Show, plays a mix of classical music and Top 40 hits.

“One Direction step aside, there’s a new kind of boy band on the circuit,” their website proclaims, emphasizing the band’s commitment to versatility and its appeal to younger audiences.

Well-Strung was officially formed in 2012, but Christopher Marchant, second violinist and Ohio native, first had the idea in 2010 while collaborating with a theatre producer in Cape Cod.

“We had the idea of a string quartet with a twist, and eventually held open auditions in January 2012,” Marchant said. “It took that time to figure out what we were trying to create.”

Marchant said they found cellist Daniel Shevlin on Facebook, then held open auditions for the final two members.

Well-Strung includes Marchant as second violinist, Shevlin as cellist, Edmund Bagnell as first violinist and Trevor Wadleigh as violist. Mark Cortale is their writer, manager and co-creator.

Marchant, Bagnell and Shevlin had all appeared in musicals both on and off Broadway prior to joining Well-Strung, and Wadleigh has performed in various orchestras. Cortale founded and produced Broadway series all over the country and the world.

“The general idea in beginning was to juxtapose classical music with something people were familiar with,” Marchant said. He said they began playing Britney Spears, Pink, Rihanna and Lady Gaga, but have since explored some other genres including pop rock, show tunes and Disney music.

“That’s one of my favorite things – we’re very versatile in our performance repertoire,” Marchant said. “There is a great appeal from people who value classical string quartet but also those who enjoy pop music and want to see it in a unique way.”

He said they will play an equal mix of male and female pop artists at the show in Springfield, including Pink, The Black Eyed Peas and U2. They’ll also perform Beethoven and Mozart.

“I think our old show was mostly focused on playing classical then pop, but what people are really responding to is when we mix it with classical and do both in one piece,” Marchant said. “We’ve been mashing up classical as a backdrop to play pop, and people are really responding to that.”

Well-Strung likes intertwining classical with familiar music to make it less intimidating for the audience.

“Sometimes it seems like people [are] afraid of classical because there’s so much out there, but we offer a friendly approach to get into it,” he said. Marchant believes the broad scope of classical music often scares people away because they don’t know where to start or what to listen to first.

Although fans really enjoy Well-Strung’s mashup approach to classical and pop, this requires a rigorous practice schedule. They sing along with the music, something no other string quartet does, according to Marchant.

“It’s really fun and keeps us invested, but we have to work really hard,” he said. “We have to sing and play different melodies at the same time, so your mind really has to work. I’m never bored.”

Well-Strung’s unique and innovative blend immediately sparked interest – their debut show sold out Joe’s Pub in New York City, and they’ve performed at prestigious national and international venues since their quick rise to fame.

They are based in New York City, but Marchant said they’re almost always on the road, playing new gigs every weekend.

Now, Akron native Marchant is excited to return to Ohio and perform in front of his family.

“This is our first trip to Ohio as Well-Strung, so I’m really excited,” he said, mentioning his extended family will come to Springfield for the performance.

“They’ve never seen it before,” Marchant said. “So I’m both excited and nervous.”

Well-Strung currently has a self-titled album, which is available on iTunes and Spotify. Hard copies can be purchased on their website, well-strung.com. It includes “Toxic” by Britney Spears, “Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga and “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, along with “A Little Night Music,” from the musical of the same name.

Marchant said they never focus on one or the other, classical or pop music, but always produce a combination of both.

They also have an upcoming album, which is still in the works and is cleverly titled Popssical. Marchant said it will include songs they’ll play at their Springfield show.

Well-Strung will perform on Saturday, Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. at the Springfield Arts Council, 117 S. Fountain Ave. Tickets prices range from $25-45, and a $10 discount is available for students. To purchase tickets, please call 937.328.3874. For more information, please visit well-strung.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Christoff at KatieChristoff@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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