Well-Strung applies their Popssical formula to some Christmas classics for their performance at The Abbey

By : Jeremy Williams
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The all-male, all-gay string quartet known as Well-Strung has been entertaining the world since 2012 with their unique blend of pop and classical music, mashing the two together to create a distinct sound they call “Popssical.”

The group — which consists of Edmund Bagnell (first violin), Christopher Marchant (second violin), Daniel Shevlin (cello) and Trevor Wadleigh (viola) — plays classical pieces from the likes of Beethoven and Mozart while singing Top 40 hits from popstars such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson.

This gifted foursome has performed across the globe from the stage on NBC’s Today Show to a gala for then-President Obama to the Vatican in Rome; and now they are spreading some holiday cheer traveling the country in their latest tour, “A Well-Strung Christmas.”

Bagnell spoke with us ahead of Well-Strung’s trip to The Abbey in Orlando on Dec. 10 about holidays, music and performing for super fan Hillary Clinton.

How did Well-Strung come together?

We came together in New York City almost six years ago. We formed to play in Provincetown for a summer. You never known were any project is going to go but fortunately people really started responding to our music and we started touring a ton. Now we are pretty much always on the road.

Everyone in the group identifies as gay. Was that done on purpose? Were they looking for an “all-gay” group or is that something that came up after the fact? Like “Hey, you’re gay? So am I!”

No it wasn’t on purpose at all. In fact, we briefly had a straight guy in the group for like three weeks, so that wasn’t a goal of ours when we formed. It just kind of worked out that way. We don’t necessarily think of ourselves as a “gay niche group”, but I think it does add something to the group.

You mentioned getting started in Provincetown. I read that in the beginning the group had to turn down multiple requests to perform in the nude. Do you think that when the four of you got started there was too much attention put on your looks and not enough on the music?

I think in the beginning that was the first thing people went to. They would focus on the image of this all-gay group, I mean I can’t really think of another all-gay group except maybe The Village People [laughs]. It isn’t a very common thing so I think people would initially focus on the way we look. When we first got started that was all we had, we didn’t have albums or videos out so all we had was our image. Now,we have a nice body of work that we are proud of that you can look at and, I hope, it speaks for itself.

Well-Strung does an amazing job of blending classical music with pop music hits. Where did the idea of mashing these two different genres up into a single, unique sound come from?

When we first started we would do a pop song and then a classical piece. So we were blending the worlds in the beginning in a sense of we were offering both genres in the same way. People really responded to it and it was great to see them light up when we did the classical pieces.

So after we made our first album we got this idea to push it even further and see how much we can shove classical music down people’s throats [laughs]. That’s when we decided to put the two on top of each other.

What is the process in putting those tracks together? Do you all get together for jam sessions and bounce ideas off each other or do each of you do your own thing and bring a couple of suggestions to the rest of the group?

We are always bouncing ideas off of each other. You can’t really predict where any idea is coming from at any given moment so we are constantly just talking because we spend so much time together, especially on the road. In terms of jam sessions, not really. Jam sessions are a little bit hard to do when you are only string instruments.

The four of you live together in NYC. Living together and working and touring together, do you guys ever get sick of each other?

You know, I really appreciate them because when we are on the road, thank God I have these guys. We cross paths with other musicians on the road who are touring by themselves and that seems like it would be lonely and harder. The four of us together have fun. We’ll do a show and then treat ourselves to a nice dinner afterwards. It has not gotten to the point where it feels terrible to be around them.

Working together and living together, is this possibly a reality show waiting to happen?

People have spoken to us about that before, and it hasn’t quite come to fruition yet. When we first formed, and again this was before we had any music released or anything, people were already talking about that. I’m kind of glad that that did not happen at that time because I think a reality show can really try to push the drama and it wouldn’t have focused on the music.

Well-Strung went viral last year with a Hillary Clinton-themed video which had you guys performing a parody of the song “Stacey’s Mom” called “Chelsea’s Mom.” That led to the group getting to perform for Hillary Clinton. What was that experience like?

It was such a cool moment. We performed the song for her, which was terrifying. It was thrilling yet terrifying. Luckily we got to meet her before we performed the song and she came out to speak, which was good [laughs]. She was standing a few feet away from us as we performed and then she came out and told the story about how the song came to her attention. It was really sweet and she was lovely. The entire day was like a fairytale.

You guys are coming to Florida with your show “A Well-Strung Christmas.” The holiday season is one of those things that seems to divide society into two columns: you either love the holiday season and all it has to offer or you hate it and always complain that we start the holiday season too soon. Which one do you fall into?

I love the holidays [laughs]. When people are complaining that they can’t believe Lowes has their Christmas lights up already, I’m like “Yes!” I love it. I have always loved the decorations. There is just something that looks so nice to me seeing all the decorations up. Everything looks so empty once they all come down.

What’s your favorite holiday song?

Uh, of course now I’m blanking on this one. It’s on the tip on my tongue [hums a few bars], “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

What kind of concert can people expect when they see Well-Strung performing at The Abbey?

This is going to be, I think, our third time at The Abbey. We love performing there. This will be a slightly different show then what we’ve done. It’s our Christmas show but we still do bring out pop/classical mash-ups, or as we call them Popssicals. We do bring that to some of our Christmas music so you can expect some fun, unexpected pairings. If you are a person who falls into the “not loving the holidays” category, we are sprinkling in some of our regular music too. They are songs that work for the season but aren’t necessarily holiday themed. I think it’s a really fun show and we let our hair down so to speak and get a bit silly.

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