Boys to men: Well Strung shares early musical influences

Edmund Bagnell, Trevor Wadleigh, Chris Marchant and Daniel Shevlin (l to r)

Well Strung, the studly singing string quartet that sold out their previous two engagements at Feinstein’s at the Nikko returns from the 18th to the 20th of this month. Given the foursome’s talent for mixing not only vocal and instrumental talent, but also music genres, we asked them to share a bit about their early musical influences, both classical and pop.

Well Strung’s cellist Daniel Shevlin has powerful childhood memories of seeing the 1990 re-release of Disney’s Fantasia, particularly the opening number in which a silhouetted orchestra plays Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Luminescent abstract images inspired by the music gradually fill the screen, overtaking the players themselves.

“I became obsessed with that piece,” says Shevlin. “I even taught myself to play it on the piano. It kind of started my whole dive into music.”

“I grew up in a household full of classical music,” recalls first violinist Edmund Bagnell “My parents would take me to the opera and the symphony.” He points to the combination of singing and stagecraft in a production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro as having a particularly powerful impact on him.

From a young age,” says violist Trevor Wadleigh, “I fell in love with with Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Even though I had no sense of the Appalachian mountains nor did I know if it was referring to the vernal season or a mountain brook (and still don’t!), Copland’s writing has such vivid color and dynamic motion. It really spoke to eight-year-old me. This piece is still breathtaking to me.”

Second violinist Chris Marchant grew up in Akron Ohio, where “both of my parents were more fond of classic rock than classical music.”

He recalls that the first cassette he ever bought for himself was Weezer’s blue album and that when he upgraded to CDs, Mariah Carey’s Daydream was his first purchase.

While his Well Strung colleagues may have listened to classical music as kids, they too leaned away from classical when they first spent their own pocket money on music.

Wadleigh, who grew up in suburban Seattle, says that Bjork’s Vespertine was the first CD he owned (and remains one of his favorites). He also notes that “my parents can be described as hippies, so I was subjected to a wide range of music, from Gregorian chants to Jethro Tull. My oldest brother was a teenager in the Seattle grunge era, so I heard a lot of that, too.”

Shevlin thinks that something by Madonna was probably his first buy, and Bagnell chose an album by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The quartet’s lifelong affection for both pop and classical sounds will be in ample evidence as they showcase their latest album, POPsical at Feinstein’s at the Nikko later this month. Among the recording’s highlights are a hybrid of Edvard Grieg and Miley Cyrus and a curious crossbreeding of Bach and Carly Rae Jepsen.