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Photo by Scott Henrischser
Photo by Scott Henrischser
Chris Merchant,(second from right) is the founder of quartet Well-Strung and an Astoria resident.

What do you get when you throw together four shockingly handsome men who are exceedingly gifted instrumentalists, equally talented vocalists, committed to social issues, and who love Ke$ha, Britney Spears and Katy Perry almost as much as they revere Beethoven, Bach and Brahms?

You get a refreshingly vibrant and relevant singing string quartet known as Well-Strung, who mesh time-tested classical tunes with current Top 40 hits.

While you may have seen them performing on “TODAY” for Kathy Lee and Hoda, caught one of their concerts at 54 Below, seen them during their summer residency in Provincetown, watched them on tour, or caught them on Bravo or online promoting Hillary Clinton, chances are you didn’t know this talented group of men live together in Astoria—a neighborhood they proudly call their home.

The group was conceived by violinist Chris Marchant and producer Mark Cortale.  The two met in 2010 while Marchant was performing in a Provincetown production of “Naked Boys Singing.” Edmund Bagnell (first violin), Daniel Shevlin (cello) and Trevor Wadleigh (viola) joined Marchant, and the four now spend their time making new music arrangements, producing videos and touring internationally.

We recently sat down with founder Chris Marchant at the Starbucks on Steinway Street to chat a little more about the group and get a more personal story.

QNS: How has it been living together?

CM: It’s crazy how often none of us are in our apartment.  We have our own very distinct separate circles, but we all really get along as brothers.

QNS: How did you decide to make a classical pop crossover quartet?

CM: I was playing [violin] on the street, and I would pull up to play in my usual spot and I would be listening to Britney on my iPod, and people would be like, “Oh my gosh, what are you listening to?” They thought it would be something classical, and I would be like, “It’s Britney…”  The two styles of music have both impacted me.

QNS: Does Britney know about Well-Strung?

CM: We played in Vegas for the first time in October, and we got to play our “Toxic” cover at Planet Hollywood, and she tweeted out a clip of it.  I’m sure it was her team… but then we got to see her show that night, and it was awesome.  She’s kind of killing it right now.

QNS: So how did you start touring?

CM:  In the beginning, we really had no idea what we were doing.  We met Trevor, the fourth member of our group, twelve days before our first show. It was insane. Then we spent our first summer in Provincetown, and people who saw us there would invite us to come perform where they live, and that’s how we started touring.

QNS: What was the beginning of your personal journey as a musician?

CM: When I was 9, I told my mom I didn’t want to play tee-ball anymore because I was really bad at it. She said, “Fine, but you have to do something.” So, I picked the violin. I was also really jealous that my sister played clarinet, and she was two grades ahead of me.

QNS: When did you realize you have a gift for it?

CM: Oh god, I will let you know if I ever feel like I do!

QNS: It genuinely blows my mind how modest you are. When did you start getting positive feedback then?

CM: Right away, I guess. But the problem was that I only worked as hard as I needed to in order to be better than everyone else in my class. I didn’t really have anyone pushing me who cared. It wasn’t until college when I really learned how serious of an instrument it is and saw the ways I was lacking.

QNS: Did you study violin in college?

CM: No, I studied music ministry, and violin was my major instrument. Then I started to get into musical theater, and would sometimes be an onstage violinist.  When I got the tour with “Sweeney Todd,” that was the first time I had to really sing and play at the same time, and it was mind-blowing. Interestingly, our first violinist now had actually played the role I played, Tobias, in the first national tour, and then I played it.

QNS: What an incredible experience.  Did you pursue musical theater after the tour?

CM: From the age of 23 to 25, I toured, doing regional productions. And then I moved to New York.

Follow Well-Strung on their website, Facebook and Instagram

 

 

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