The 11th NYC Musical Saw Festival
When – Saturday, May 30th 2015, 2pm
Where – Trinity Church, 31-18 37th Street (37th Street at 31st Avenue), Astoria, NY
Flyer art by Zina Saunders
* Special Guest Performance: The Astoria Symphonic Choir – musical saws and singing voices combined.
Pianist: Christopher Bradshaw
* NATALIA ‘SAW LADY’ PARUZ, founder & organizer of the Musical Saw Festival, will present the musical saw as an ensemble instrument in music composed for film.
* Special guest performance: Trinity Handbell Choir
* Premier of a new composition for the musical saw, handbells and piano by composer Scott Munson.
Pianist: Christopher Bradshaw
* A musical saw art exhibit
Paintings by: Jas Ingram, Lisa Alonso Canellas, Yirmi Pinkus, Zina Saunders, Heidi Younger, Aaron Porter, Jamie Isenstein, Kenly Dillard, Rodney Bauer, Miriam Paskalski, Barrett Cobb, Alyssa Steele, Young Joo, Michael Watson, Kauri Sievers
* Solos by musical saw players from around the world
* Meet the oldest saw player – 95 years old sawist who’s been playing for 75 years and is still performing!
* The ‘Chorus of the Saws’ (all participating musical saw players playing together, accompanied by Judy Dimino on organ and piano).
The musical saw player who travels the farthest in order to attend the festival is considered the “guest of honor”.
Musical Saw Workshops
Musical saw player Olivier Doucet of Canada will give a workshop about saw modifications and design. Points in the workshop:
Removing the stiffener of the handle
Removing the teeth
Reducing the size of the tip
Curving the edge of the saw
Bronze and nickel silver musical saws
Handle design for maximum base notes
(This is a hands-on workshop where musical saw players will be able to try playing different designs of saws).
Musical saw player Katharina Micada of Germany will give a workshop about playing the musical saw without scratch sounds.
Musical saw player Leanne Wiberg of Virginia will give a workshop titled ‘The Sounds of Science’, about the science Behind the musical saw.
Musical saw player Bronwen Naish of Wales will give a workshop about playing in tune and developing tone color.
Musical saw player Travis Bingaman of Seattle, WA, will give a beginners workshop to people with no musical saw experience.
How to get there:
Trinity Church, 31-18 37th Street (37th Street at 31st Avenue), Astoria, NY
* ‘R’ subway train to Queens: Get off at the Steinway St, Station. Exit near intersection of Broadway and Steinway Street. Walk (2 blocks) west on Broadway towards 38th street. Turn right onto 37th St. Church is at the end of the block.
* ‘N’ or ‘Q’ subway train to Queens: Get off at the ‘Broadway’ stop. Walk on Broadway to 37th street (6 blocks). Turn left onto 37th street. Church is at the end of the block.
NYC Musical Saw Festival souvenir T-shirts will be available for purchase:
* new design (M, L, XL, – $20 each, XXL – $25)
* old design (only L available – $20 each).
Time Magazine’s report of the Musical Saw Festival:
Musical saw players wishing to participate in the festival:
If you would like to participate as a saw player (whether as a soloist, a participant in the ‘Chorus of the Saws’ or to take the workshop) or as a member of the audience, please contact us through the ‘Contact’ page and send us your name, e-mail address and whether you are a saw player or not.
If you wish to sponsor the NYC Musical Saw Festival – please contact us.
David Schmerler & Eric Rodrigues
Music Made on the Cutting Edge
Actually, the Other Side Is the Star at the New York City Musical Saw Festival
By ANDY BATTAGLIA
“It’s a cut-throat industry,” Natalia Paruz said, with a pause, “and nothing pleases me more than sinking my teeth into a tune.” A chorus of groans and guffaws rose up around her—one of many memorable sounds on Saturday at a spirited tribute to a curious subject: the musical saw.
For the 10th annual New York City Musical Saw Festival, some 50 saw players from near and far assembled to celebrate an instrument known for its simple origins and otherworldly effects. Take a long metal saw, scrape its smooth edge with a bow and bend it manually with a handle or just a thumb atop the blade—the act of playing it at once resourceful and absurd.
Dozens of saw players gathered at a church in Astoria Saturday for the tenth New York City Musical Saw Festival, an annual celebration of the tool-turned-instrument. Video by WSJ’s Jennifer Weiss.
It’s also many-splendored, as demonstrated to an audience of more than 300 festivalgoers gathered at Trinity Church in Astoria, Queens. In her opening remarks, Ms. Paruz, the festival’s director, known to most in attendance as the “Saw Lady,” recounted the history of her eccentric event and announced the official declaration, by decree of Queens borough president Helen Marshall, of Natalia Paruz Musical Saw Festival Day.
Ms. Paruz, who is 36, then turned the program over to a motley mix of saw music that ranged from demonstrations of quasi-classical refinement to lively shows of rootsy verve.
“I thought a lady was singing on the street the first time I heard a saw,” said Charity Dudley, a 28-year-old performer from West Virginia who echoed frequent descriptions of the instrument as a vessel for a sort of siren’s song.
Indeed, as the show commenced, the instrument’s flair for glissando charmed and enchanted, sliding among notes like a whistle on a spaceship. Transmissions from the saw are hard to control and less than exacting in their effect, but over four hours of performance, the strange sound supported many musical modes. The Japanese player Shinsaku Murakawa offered a stirring version of “Danny Boy”; the Chinese-born Liming Chen performed a rendition of “Beautiful Spanish Girl”; a German duo did Debussy. Some players were accompanied by pre-recorded backing tracks, while others played with string sections or rustic folk bands.
Hannes Vermeulen had ventured from Langebaan, South Africa, making him the festival’s guest of honor—the saw player who’d traveled the longest distance to Queens. Back home, he’d been a contestant on the TV show “SA’s Got Talent,” so local leaders helped raised funds to send their hometown hero to New York. At Trinity Church, brochures extolling the virtues of Langebaan as a tourist destination (watersports on a turquoise lagoon, an eons-old fossil known as “Eve’s Footprint”) sat on a table in back as the 66-year-old saw man performed a portion of his nation’s national anthem.
Asked why the musical saw is the instrument he chooses to play, Mr. Vermeulen replied, “It’s the only instrument I can play.”
Outside the church, Alexi Faucomprez, an enthusiast from Lyon, France, managed to teach an unsuspecting virtuoso to play in just a few minutes as he tuned up to perform on his own. Mr. Faucomprez, who is 39, makes his own custom toothless saws, one of which features a long 15-second sustain.
Does he sell the saws he makes? “I try to,” he said.
Adam Wirtzfeld, in town from Minneapolis for his fourth Saw Festival, preferred a plain store-bought saw with teeth, the sharper the better. “I like that it’s a beautiful instrument that is also capable of destruction,” he said. In 15 years of playing, he has cut himself only twice. “In both cases, it bled kind of a lot. But it must have been entertaining for the audience to see blood flowing down my hand while I was playing.”
Happily, Saturday’s proceedings were gore-free, though not without streaks of surprise. Mike Weldeck Jr., in town with Ms. Dudley from West Virginia, played a theatrical piece titled “Invention for Saw and Typewriter.” She typed fragments of a poem, percussively; he played saw. “I figured we could have something that was multimedia,” he said.
Christine Suter had come from Long Island, where she took up the tool after attending her first festival five years ago. “I’ve always gravitated toward weird, bizarre instruments,” she said, holding special admiration for the didgeridoo and the mbira thumb piano. Her favorite, however, is the saw she played onstage over Billie Holiday singing “When You’re Smiling.”
As the event’s mastermind, Ms. Paruz conducted the festival with a sense of significance and a spirit that was irrepressible. “It’s important to preserve this art form and to propel it forward,” she said, when asked about why she has remained true to the musical saw for so many years. “I hope the festival will ensure that it won’t disappear.”
“Another reason,” she added, “is that it’s just really fun.”
This article appeared June 3, 2013, on page A24 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal
Listen to the Sounds of Sawing
By Tammy Scileppi
Musicians at the NY Musical Saw Festival in Astoria perform. Photo courtesy of Matt Chilton
Recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest musical saw ensemble ever assembled, the NYC Musical Saw Festival returned to Astoria for its 10th-year milestone celebration, filling Trinity Lutheran Church, at 31-18 37th St., last weekend with 300-plus concertgoers, including many diehard fans and curious folks looking for a new musical experience.
The applause was deafening as 40 international saw musicians gathered on stage to perform together or solo, while the entire six-hour event captured the essence of the unusual instrument that produces haunting, ethereal sounds.
Organizer/director Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz, known for her subway station performances, was the star. She played a repertoire of beautiful arrangements and tunes, accompanied by a full orchestra of 12 musicians. Her performance of composer Scott Munson’s “Cinematic Suite” received a standing ovation.
During a phone interview, Paruz said she recently received a Declaration of Honor from Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, in which Marshall proclaimed June 1 “Musical Saw Festival Day.”
“It was a huge surprise for me and I’m so grateful to her,” Paruz said. She also got letters of recognition from Councilman Peter Vallone and others, even Mayor Bloomberg.
“It’s really gratifying how the festival took root, and I’m really grateful how the Musical Saw Festival is getting recognition,” Paruz said.
A skilled musician plays the musical saw using a violin or cello bow and creates arrangements by ear, or plays popular tunes using standard musical notes, without any visual indication on the instrument as to where the notes would be. So, for example, quarter and half notes are achieved by gently manipulating the blade back and forth causing it to vibrate, thereby generating sounds that can only be described as other-worldly.
Paruz, who has performed at the Queens Botanical Gardens, Flushing Library, various churches and parks, and yearly at The Astoria Historical Society, started playing the musical saw about 19 years ago and hasn’t stopped since. She says she’s still learning. It all started when she traveled to Europe with her parents at age 6 and happened to come across a man playing his saw on a street in Austria.
“There were no teachers I could go to, so I had to sort of reinvent the wheel for myself. But today I teach, and other people teach, so it evolved,” she said.
Offering lessons from her home, her students range in age from 14 to 83. Paruz said, “It’s not like violin lessons that are ongoing; there’s one lesson and I teach you everything you need to know, and there’s exercises where you practice on your own. Very few people ever need a second lesson.”
And you don’t have to have prior musical training. But it helps.
The Saw Lady says she finds classical music the most challenging to play and her favorite traditional composers are Bach, Mozart and Brahms. Along with performing pop and show tunes, she works with a lot of composers and singer-songwriters. “I don’t compose, but I interpret other people’s music,” she said.
Paruz’s fascination with musical saws grew over the years as she honed her special talent and turned it into a passion that truly defines her. She has shared her gift with thousands. That’s why she still chooses to perform in the subway. It’s not only because of the great acoustics, but especially because her audience is always close by and easy to connect with.
Her favorite stations to play are: Union Square, Herald Square and 59th Street at Lexington Avenue. She usually performs three days a week.
“It’s so nice to see at the Saw Festival how this art form transcends ages and cultural barriers,” Paruz said. “It’s really an art form for everyone.”
Paruz has an upcoming performance June 22 at Parrish Art Museum in the Hamptons, L.I. For more information on the festival and Paruz, check out www.musicalsawfestival.org.
Photographer: Joseph Peknik III
I was glad I could make it… my first one. I was very impressed by all everything. The way it’s put together and run, it flows very well. And you make it look effortless.
Natalia! thank you so much for this awesome experience.
Your passion is magnetic and I’m glad we’ve made contact.
It was great seeing old faces and new and hearing some fantastic playing at the festival today! Nice job as always, Natalia! Thanks for all your hard work.
Had a blast Natalia!!
Pianist/organist Judy D.
Thanks for everything today. I had to leave at 5:45 to get home to start writing, but I had a great time while I was there.
WSJ reporter Andy B.
I just wanted to express again how much fun I had at the Saw Festival! It was an incredible experience.
i had a wonderful time. learned a lot. found out i’m not half-bad but there’s lots of great saws out there. and new and interesting styles etc. thanks natalia!
I enjoyed yesterday’s festival. Glad I went!
Russia’s premier TV channel reported on the NYC Musical Saw Festival
Many many thanks to Natalia Paruz for organizing another wonderful day full of singing saws!
Natalia, you rock! That was an amazing festival!
Your festival was absolutely genius!! What an experience to hear you, original pieces, divine sounds, great organization and a very charming announcer. You are truly amazing and I was honored to be at your concert. Hugs from around the corner.
Thank you! I really enjoyed meeting you and listening to the music on Saturday and wish I could have stayed longer. Thanks for having me, and congrats on a terrific event.
Wall Street Journal videographer
A fun event as always, Natalia!
I really enjoyed this event! it was great! – Congratulations to Natalia and to everyone involved in the organization of it, all your effort was reflected in a great result.
Had the time of my life.. Was wonderful to meet you in person.. Thanx for all your hard work & everyone else who made this event possible…
thoroughly enjoyable event, lovely to see folks from 2011 and to meet new players and performers.
Scott Munson’s new 4-piece work was outrageously wonderful, a joy to hear and the players–especially the saw player (Natalia)–the epitome of perfection.
Thank you Natalia and Scott and all your assistants for3a wonderful afternoon.
Poet Willa F.
The Saw Festival turned out to be a full house. Great show a usual.
The 10th musical saw festival has again shown your talent for organization and your dedication to the presentation of the musical saw. Each year, I’ve met new friends and chatted with folks I had met in past years. I’ve heard the soloist present diverse styles and have been inspired by the playing. Although I had to leave somewhat early to catch my train, I left with a renewed spirit of inspiration. It was a memorable day and I look forward to next year’s festival!
Thank you for all your efforts,
Think ya have Disneyland beat Natalia. Good work!
I just wanted to let you know what I great time we had!
Can’t wait for next year.
Again many thanks, I had a blast!
Thank you for Saw Fest X, it was SO great!
DJ Bronwin C.
Had a great time at the festival So looking forward to next year!!!!
It was such an awesome festival, so amazing in every way. Just amazing to have so many of us “musical sawyers” gathered together in one place. It was so nice to meet everyone!!
First of all, congratulations with the success of your 10th festival. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and for me it was an experience of a lifetime.
It was nice to meet you and the other saw players.
Travelling from USA to RSA for a holliday is cheap because you can buy almost R10 for $1. For me it was the opposite and even though I had sponsors, I still had to spend R5 000 from my bank account, but it was worth it.
I obtained a copy of the Wall Street Journal and my sponsors are very pleased,maybe I will get sponsored again next year.
thank you so much for having Adam Wirtzfeld and the Roe Family SIngers at the 10th Annual Saw Festival a few weeks ago on June 1. We had so much fun, as usual! I loved getting to hear so many different players from all over the world again this year. And I once again marveled at how, no matter when the festival is held, it always seems to be on the hottest day possible. ; )
We wish you continued success with your own performances and with the Saw Festival. Here’s hoping it lasts at least another ten years!
The Musical Saw Festival was a Gas- even more than the others I’ve been to- I saw a number of very artistic saw cases, and it seems that more and more good-lookin’ women are taking up the saw…of course I may have enjoyed it more since I got to sit in the back row with the bad kids….
Thank you so much for all of what you did for me in my recent New York trip.
I came back to Tokyo safely the day before yesterday. I really enjoyed 7 days of New York trip, especially the 10th NYC Musical Saw Festival. It was a great and special opportunity to be able to play musical saw in front of foreign audience for me and exchange friendship with US and international musical saw player. Especially it was a great pleasure that I could meet Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz, A person leading global musical saw scene.
I hope I can meet you again in the future.
Thank you again, Natalia and all the best,
I think Sawfest was great. I’ve known about it for a long time but this is the first time I came. Great space to have it in as well! One of those cool events that makes NYC great. I hope it continues to grow and grow.
This is Mike Waldeck Jr. from the saw festival this summer. Thanks for having me at the musical saw festival. I had a blast. It’s great to meet other saw players and see that they are all great people as a whole. I feel blessed to be a part of the saw community now. That festival was the highlight of a very busy summer.