FOX5 TV News at 10 reported on the 7th annual NYC Musical Saw Festival:
The ensemble begins to play Ave Maria and work toward a Guinness World Record.
July 30, 2009
At least 350 people packed Trinity Lutheran Church in Long Island City, turning the festival into a standing-room-only event, with audience members resorting to sitting on the floor in front of the first pew. A battery of press personnel flashed cameras and took notes, while FOX5 TV featured the festival on their 10 o’clock news.
Though the festival was scheduled to start at 2 p.m., audience members started filling the church as early as 12:30 p.m., eager to secure themselves a good seat. While waiting for the concert to start, they were able to enjoy the art exhibit featuring paintings and collages by eight artists, all featuring the musical saw, of course. A curator from the Metropolitan Museum of Art perused the art exhibit with evident enthusiasm.
The public portion of the festival lasted four and a half hours, followed by a workshop with the saw players. The concert opened with a presentation of four world premieres commissioned by the festival. Composer Scott R. Munson presented “Quintet” for string quartet and musical saw, and “The World is Too Much With Us,” a setting of William Wordsworth’s poem featuring soprano singer Ilya Speranza with strings and musical saw.
Composer Eyal Bat presented “Canticle of Angels” for two musical saws and piano and “1905,” a piece inspired by an old house built in that year in Astoria. This piece featured the Trinity Handbell Choir, directed by Richard Walker. Playing the musical saw part in all the world premiers was the festival’s founder and director, Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz. To round up her set she also played the duet for cello and musical saw from the 1991 French movie “Delicatessen” with cellist Lawrence Zoernig.
A succession of solos by many, many musical saw players followed, some playing with live accompaniment by harp, piano, guitar, banjo or mandolin. While there were a few pianists who took turns accompanying the different saw-soloists, Heawon Kim, who is on the faculty of the C.W. Post/Long Island University, accompanied quite a few of them.
Four of the sawists attached all sorts of electronic gadgets to their saw, creating loops of sound and distortion causing the saw to sound like an electric guitar.
The youngest musical saw player was 15-year-old Peter Harrison, who came with his grandfather from North Carolina. They both share a passion for playing the musical saw. The oldest were two sawists, one from Pennsylvania, the other from Massachussets – both 83 years young. Musical saw players came from near and far to participate in the festival – two came all the way from Japan, three from Germany, four from Canada, one from Belgium, one from France and the rest from various states.
For the record performance, 53 saw players lined up to put their signature on a document for Guinness, witnessed by two witnesses and a notary public. All 53 of them then proceeded to play the Schubert “Ave Maria,” an eight-minute piece, accompanied by Judy Dimino on church organ and conducted by James Bassi. When they were done the audience roared with delight. The enthusiasm for the new world record was through the roof. At the end of the concert all the saw players played together again. This time it was “Over the Rainbow,” and the players surrounded the church, sitting in the isles all around the audience, creating a true surround-sound experience.
Paruz said that she will send all the evidence to Guinness in London by the end of this month. Once the evidence is received by Guinness, the group will notify her in four to six weeks about the acceptance of the new world record.
The festival, which was supported by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funding from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and NY State Council on the Arts, was a huge success. As people left the church some asked the Saw Lady if she gives saw-lessons.
The seventh annual NYC Musical Saw Festival in Astoria broke the world record for the most saw players gathered in one place. (photo by Michael O’Kane)
What is the sound of 53 saws being played at once? It’s more like the twang of a theremin or the glass-shattering octaves of a female soprano than the noise made from cutting wood.
At New York’s seventh annual Musical Saw Festival, saw enthusiasts from across the globe converged at Trinity Lutheran Church in Astoria to break the Guinness World Record for the most people playing the tool at one time, which was set last year in Poland, when 27 players got together.
“The sound was so incredible. It was a once-in-a-lifetime situation,” Natalia Paruz, the founder and director of the festival, said. “It was a combination of the sound and the visual and the vibration that made it so much fun and so amazing.”
The saw is played in an unusual manner, bent to a curve and held between the legs. Then a bow similar to that used by a violin player is drawn back and forth across the edge of the “instrument” to create different pitches.
Each participant at the festival had the opportunity to give a solo performance during which all genres of music — from classical to country and even pop — were played.
“It gives you a lot of freedom to express yourself musically in a way that a lot of other instruments don’t,” Bill Boyer, a Brooklynite who has been playing the saw for the last 11 years, said. “On the piano, the notes are separated from each other mechanically. On the musical saw, they are all connected. I like that about it.”
Max Butler of Texas has been playing the saw for 20 years. His instrument is a Stanley brand tool which he purchased at Wal Mart. Butler came to New York specifically for the festival because he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share the stage with 52 other saw players. Back home he says people are intrigued by his hobby.
“First, they look around to see where that sound is coming from and then when they identify it, they come over and want to know all about it,” he said.
Alex Kim of New Jersey has played numerous musical instruments including the saxophone, trombone and flute, but he said nothing compares to the saw.
“It’s very special,” he said. “It is my favorite.”
In perhaps the most unusual rendition of Michael Jackson’s classic “Beat It” ever performed, Californian Cynthia Weyuker sang and played the saw to the accompaniment of an egg beater’s whirr and a flour sifter’s churn.
“There are so many fantastic, perfectly in tune, beautiful, technically awesome saw players out there, and they have been playing 20 years longer than me,” she said. “I’ll never catch up, so I’m just sort of making my own thing.”
Similarly, Ralph Stovesandt of Germany also altered his saw playing by running one cable from the instrument into a sound machine and another into a loop station, creating a kind of electric guitar effect.
“It was only an experiment,” he said. “I’m a guitar player. I play the blues guitar so I tried to put some pick-ups on the saw. I play the classical saw too.”
Arthur Doerksen of Canada, who rides a unicycle in addition to his musical endeavors, took up saw playing at the request of his wife.
“She told me that if I was going to marry her, I would have to pick up a musical instrument of some sort,” he explained. “I figured that besides a triangle or a harmonica, this was easiest I could go and the cheapest I could go.”
Thirty-five years later, he still feels like he made the right decision.
Although the saw festival lasted over four hours, the audience remained captivated throughout the event.
“It was wonderful,” Ellie Moss of Australia, said. “I really liked the classical pieces.”
“I found it mind bending,” Carl Barnett of Rego Park said. “It really ran the gamut. Some people didn’t need accompaniment and others sounded like a science fiction movie.”
Photographer: Pat Merino
They came, they sawed, they conquered!
Jul 29, 2009
The 7th annual NYC Musical Saw Festival attracted 55 musical saw players to Astoria on Saturday, July 18. Of those, 53 played together, attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the Largest Musical Saw Ensemble.
Over 350 people packed Trinity Lutheran Church LIC, turning the festival into a standing room-only event, with audience resorting to sitting on the floor in front of the first pew. Though the festival was scheduled to start at 2 p.m., audience members started filling the church as early as 12:30 p.m., eager to secure themselves a good seat.
The youngest musical saw player was 15-year-old Peter Harrison, who came with his grandfather from North Carolina. Musical saw players came from all over the country and globe to participate, including two from Japan, three from Germany, four from Canada, one from Belgium, and one from France.
Fifty-three saw players lined up to put their signature on a document for Guinness, and then proceeded to play “Ave Maria” ccompanied by Judy Dimino on church organ and conducted by James Bassi.
Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz, the festival's founder and director, said she will send all the evidence to Guinness in London by the end of this month. Once the evidence is received by Guinness, they will notify her in four to six weeks about the acceptance of the new world record. The current record was set in Poland last year with 27 musical saw players, meaning the Astoria even is likely a new world record.
Videos from the festival can be viewed here.
Photographer: Harris Graber
2 Responses to “Musical Saw Festival 2009 in the News”
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- Adamec: you have been a great inspiration, and so was the NYC saw fe...
- Bob: Dear Natalie, That is absolutely wonderful. Congratulations...
- Susan: Natalia Loved looking at the various videos from the festiv...
- Margrit: Congratilation to this fantastic success! It is very interes...
- Nicole: you have been a great inspiration, and so was the NYC saw fe...