by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
Lady GaGa with a pinch of Mozart. Katy Perry with a splash of Beethoven. Or, how about Adele with a sprinkle of Brahms? Don't knock it until you try it. And, you can try it by listening to Well-Strung, an all-male string ensemble based in New York that combines classical chamber music and pop hits together.
Each member - Edmund Bagnell (violin), Christopher Marchant (violin), Daniel Shevlin (cellist), Trevor Wadleigh (viola) - is a remarkably skilled instrumentalist and vocalist, playing and singing today's chart-topping singles, from 'Your Love is My Drug' to 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' to 'Toxic.'
The quartet will perform live November 8 at The Neptune, in Seattle's U-District, as part of a tour - with stops in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Provincetown, Palm Springs, San Francisco, and Coral Springs, to name a few. For tickets, visit www.stgpresents.org.
By phone, I checked in with Wadleigh, who grew up in Kent and graduated from the University of Puget Sound. Taking a workout break on a stairwell at his gym, here's what the Well-Strung member told me in advance of the group's upcoming performance.
Albert Rodriguez: In your own words, describe Well-Strung and what you guys do.
Trevor Wadleigh: We offer an entertaining hour of pop and classical fusion. We offer people who don't always get to hear chamber music the opportunity to hear it in a preserved state, untouched, along with some pop songs. We also combine the two, so you have kind of a good introduction to people who don't really cross over to either side - you're at both a classical and pop concert. We often go back and forth. We hopefully entertain you and you'll hear good music.
Rodriguez: Did you guys start out just being a chamber music quartet, or did you incorporate pop elements into the act upon its formation?
Wadleigh: It was always assumed that it was going to be a pop situation. When we were getting together that was why we were getting together.
Rodriguez: You guys have a wide range of music that you play, from Taylor Swift to Adele. Are there any songs or artists that you've tried to play, but it hasn't really worked in recomposing it for your act?
Wadleigh: There's been a couple of reasons why things don't work out for us for whatever reason, like the instrumentation or it doesn't play well with our voices, or something to that effect. I wouldn't want to say that it's one artist or any material that wouldn't work for our concept; we haven't found that so far, at least. We've done some hip-hop stuff, we've done some rap stuff, and that's all worked effectively, actually, and a lot of pop stuff.
Rodriguez: Do you just play what you rehearse, or do you take requests at your shows? Like, if someone asked for Iggy Azalea's 'Fancy,' is that something you can pull out of a hat?
Wadleigh: We don't perform that way; we don't take audience shout-outs. If you were to call out 'Fancy,' everyone in the band would be pretty capable of playing it, but it's not something we play. But that's sometimes how a song comes to us. Generally how we operate is we get a request, or we pick the songs ourselves, and then decide on an arrangement, decide on who'll be singing which part and how we should mix the instruments in; we kind of look at the whole thing.
Rodriguez: Has there been any discussion to expanding Well-Strung into a five-piece, or do you want to keep it a quartet?
Wadleigh: Whoa, a five-piece! Are you looking to join our quartet? (laughs)
Rodriguez: If I can play the kazoo, yes.
Wadleigh: Bring it on! We've had a lot of fun collaborating with other artists, but we've never really thought about making it a five-piece. A couple of people have been like, 'Why don't you have a string bass? You should put in a string bass.' But if you look at the canon of classical music, a giant portion of the repertoire is for the string quartet, which is generally violin, viola and cello, and we just really want to stay true to that because a portion of our show is playing classical pieces in their entirety.
Rodriguez: Aside from the obvious, your family and friends, what do you miss most about living in this area?
Wadleigh: Everything. There's nowhere else like Seattle, really. From the city, two hours away you have arid desert, you have the beautiful Cascade and Olympic mountains, you have rainforest, you have fresh lakes and the ocean. Ideally when I come home, I go out to the Olympic peninsula - my parents have a cabin out there, so I always make time to go there. There's nowhere as beautiful as the Northwest.
Rodriguez: Does your set list change from night to night, city to city?
Wadleigh: Pretty much, right now, we're doing the same show. In a couple of months, it'll be a little different. We're not changing it night to night, but do we have different set lists that we take out on the road.
Rodriguez: As we near the end of the year, will you be adding some holiday music into your concerts?
Wadleigh: We actually are working on some holiday music right now, but we haven't put it into our shows that we're taking on the road, like the one we're playing in Seattle.
Rodriguez: What is the best way for people to follow the act, to get updates on shows and new material?
Wadleigh: We have a website, www.wellstrung.com, and there's a calendar of events with shows that we're playing. But it might be easier getting updates via Facebook, or on Twitter.
Rodriguez: Do you have any original compositions?
Wadleigh: Nothing in the show. Edmund (Bagnell) is working on a musical right now, he's a bit of a writer. He hasn't written for us, but he's toying around with a couple of pop songs that we would perform. But we've never put them in the show. So, no original compositions yet, but hopefully soon.
Rodriguez: Is there anything you're specifically looking forward to on this trip back home?
Wadleigh: Just hanging out with my family and dogs, running into friends. To be in a car again, that's exciting - just driving somewhere. Just being out of your state is a welcome treat sometimes.
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