Old and New Meld in Well-Strung’s Cover Songs

Photo by Giancarlo Sepulveda

Centuries-old melodies melded with the stylings of contemporary pop artists in the Berrie Center Saturday night, as a New York City-based string quartet brought the house down with a selection of well-known, classical pieces paired with the lyrics of modern-day rock stars.

The group, cheekily named Well-Strung, appeared on stage dressed in black, their skinny jeans, tight shirts and sneakers in juxtaposition to the shining, amber-toned instruments held in their hands. After a brief introduction, the musicians launched into their first number, a mash-up of Rossini’s 1829 “William Tell Overture” and British rock band Queen’s 1978 anthem “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Loud, energetic and played with consummate skill, the song was a fitting beginning to a concert characterized by witty banter, excellent musicianship and clever medleys.

Well-Strung’s players – violinists Edmund Bagnell and Christopher Marchant, cellist Daniel Shevlin and Trevor Wadleigh on viola – are not merely instrumentalists. The group sang throughout the concert, their voices joining together nicely in song, as their bows flitted across the strings of their instruments.

Onstage, the members of Well-Strung radiated a down-to-earth, knowing charm: a characteristic which elevated their act above crass shtick, and into the sphere of deeply enjoyable entertainment.

The concert moved along at a brisk clip, the music ceasing occasionally between numbers, as the performers took time to explain, with light-hearted humor, the logic behind certain musical combinations. A brief intermission served as the only other interruption.

Well-Strung blended the work of Bach with Taylor Swift’s 2014 hit “Blank Space,” covered Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and reimagined Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” to include vocal contributions from all four musicians.

Other notable renditions included an interpretation of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen and a reworking of Charlie Daniels’ classic barn burner, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The latter song, with its country-western flavor, served as a refreshing respite from the bubblegum pop which so dominated the rest of the set.

The concert concluded with a fast-paced number: “Mean” by Taylor Swift blended with the melody of Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down” from the 1942 ballet “Rodeo.” When the song ended, the musicians bowed to an applauding audience before leaving the stage, chased by cheers and calls for an encore.

Well-Strung obliged: they quickly reappeared onstage, launching into “Do-Re-Mi,” an iconic song from the classic Rogers and Hammerstein production “The Sound of Music.” Dancing, singing and grinning, Well-Strung finished their performance on an exceptionally high note. The Berrie Center would do well to host the quartet again.