The 2010 Musical Saw Festival was reported on in the ‘Astoria Times’ newspaper, with photo on the FRONT PAGE:
Making music with a saw and violin bow may sound like a niche interest, but the NYC Musical Saw Festival at the Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria Saturday proved it is one with an international appeal that only seems to be growing.
Festival organizer Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz, a 17-year saw player who lives in Astoria, said the event began with four musical saw players and now, eight years later, has grown to 30, with players coming from as close by as New York City to as far away as Japan.
This year also featured the debut of both a new song composed specifically for the musical saw, “Seen and Unseen” by Eyal Bat, and the debut of Paruz’s new band, Ameriklectic, which played compositions in which the musical saw is the featured instrument. Paruz said she is already planning to record with her new band and to hold next year’s festival at a larger venue.
“Astoria has sort of become a pilgrimage place for musical saw players,” Paruz said.
Paruz’s passion for the instrument, which has led her to multiple concert and media appearances from a solo in Carneige Hall to an appearance on MTV’s “Andy Milonakis Show” to NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion,” has made her a lightning rod for other fans of the instrument.
Before she became a musician, Paruz was a dancer but was hit by a car while walking on the street.
“That put an end to my dance career,” Paruz said, “and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.”
When she took a trip to Europe with her parents a short time after being hit, she saw a man playing a saw, which she said was the first time she had felt excited about something since the accident. When she started playing, it began as a hobby, but her neighbors heard her playing and asked her to play for a charity function.
Word of mouth spread, first to other venues that wanted Paruz to play for them, which led to Paruz playing the musical saw and other musical instruments such as handbells professionally, then to other musical saw players. Eight years ago, a musical saw player from California contacted Paruz and wanted to come to New York to meet Paruz. She said yes, but only if the other, local musical saw players Paruz knew could meet the Californian as well.
This was the birth of the first musical saw festival. In subsequent years, more and more musical saw players wanted to meet with Paruz, and what began as meet-ups turned into an annual event that now takes all year to plan. The small theater was packed at the Hellenic center at 27-09 Crescent St.
“They just unanimously decided I should be the one to put on the festival,” she said.
Paruz said the musical saw is played by placing the handle between the legs for stability, then using the left hand to bend the blade from the tip as the right hand runs a violin bow along the non-serrated edge. The more the saw is bent, the higher the notes. Any saw can be played this way, although most saws made for music have no teeth or have teeth that are decorative and not sharpened.
“I’ve been playing for 17 years and I’ve never hurt myself,” Paruz said.
Lisa Mayer, a former Hillcrest resident who played at the festival with her husband and Kew Gardens native Sruli Dresdner, said the saw’s use as a carpenter tool and a musical instrument is one of its appeals.
“It’s utilitarian and artistic,” she said.
WooYoung Park, who came from Osaka, Japan, to play at the festival, said the sound of the musical saw is also a prime appeal.
“The sound is beautiful and unique,” she said. “It’s a free sound.”
Paruz said that for her the music has become a way for her to meet people of all ages, religions and backgrounds, in addition to sounding beautiful.
“It’s angelic and otherworldly and spiritual,” Paruz said. “It has a magic to it.”
Musical Saw Festival Opens With Mayoral Proclamation
All participating 26 musical saw players playing together.
Photo Harris Graber
The eighth annual New York City Musical Saw Festival welcomed 26 musical saw players from around the globe to the Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria on August 7. A proclamation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg was read to open the event.
Ameriklectic, a local 10-piece band, featured the musical saw (played by festival founder Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz) as the lead instrument in jazz compositions by Scott Munson. Two musical saw trios were presented at the festival, “Moscow Nights”, played by three musical saw players from Osaka, Japan. A ragtime piece by composer Eyal Bat, commissioned by the festival, with musical saw players Chelsea Winter, Sharif Vakili and Paruz, with piano accompaniment by Judy Dimino, had its world premier.
Musical saw player Paul Gherson parodied the lyrics to George Gershwin’s “Summertime”.
“Summer time, and the living is easy,
Bows are swinging, and vibrations are high…
Oh, but sawyers are few, and Natalia’s still looking,
The Carpenter’s Union she invited to try!”
Hip Hop poet Mason Granger presented a poem about the musical saw and musical saw player Doc George Hiller played his amplified musical saw attached to guitar pedals that alter the sound in various ways, making it sound like a Jimmy Hendrix guitar. A workshop where advanced musical saw players dispensed information to beginners followed the concert. At the workshop, two aspiring musical saw players drew their very first note from a saw.
Mark Grant, who has composed for the musical saw, said: “As a composer I learned a little more about the musical saw just by listening at the festival, especially to the [Eyal Bat] trio at the beginning of the program but also to other parts of the program. I was also pleased to get acquainted with Scott Munson’s work as a composer and arranger–his stuff is first class all the way, a ‘good listen’ and very well put together for the band, including the musical saw as a lead.”
“I’ve been wanting to go to the festival for five years, since I started playing the musical saw, and this is the first time I was able to be in New York City for the summer,” said one of the musical saw players.
“I liked meeting like-minded musicians from across the world and the U.S., and I learned a lot from the workshop, where we could talk freely about problems with our own playing, saws, bows, etc.,” said another. Heidi Younger, one of the painters exhibiting works at the festival, said, “I loved the festival! It was a very happy event. I am sorry I haven’t attended in previous years.”
Jeffrey Dayton, an audience member from Long Island, said, “To finally get to see what I have only read about is an experience I will never forget. I will cherish the memory for a lifetime. Every one of the performers was made to feel like they were the star of the show. No talent was too small.”
“Kudos to Queens Council on the Arts for support of the 8th annual NYC Musical Saw Festival: SawLady + gang is amazing,” Clyde Fitch, who lives near the Hellenic Cultural Center, twittered after the festival.
Three people residing in the vicinity of the Hellenic Cultural Center, where the festival took place, said they were inspired to dig into their toolboxes and try to fiddle with a saw when they returned home from the festival.
Audience members are invited to leave comments about the festival at www.MusicalSawFestival.org.
For more information about the annual New York City Musical Saw Festival, held in Astoria every summer, and to see videos from the event, visit www.MusicalSawFestival.org
NYC Musical Saw Festival
8th Annual Musical Saw Festival Held At The Hellenic Cultural Center In Astoria
Musical saw trio. Photographer: Pat Merino
The 8th annual Musical Saw Festival was held at the Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria. This fine art dates back to 17th century when woodcutting musicians around the world simultaneously began developing the saw as a musical instrument. In time a number of companies started manufacturing saws to cater to this part of the market.
The art form emerged in places as far away as Sweden, France and Japan; but we understand that America has emerged as the center of the art form. The Musical Saw Festival held in Astoria is the world’s largest and the following report captures some of its flavor.
Twenty-six musical saw players graced the stage of the Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria, home to NYC’s 8th Annual Musical Saw Festival. Some played solo acapellas, while others were accompanied by piano, guitar, vocals and even by a four-string washbasin. ‘Amerikletic’ is a local ten piece band which includes the festival’s founder, Natalia ‘Saw Lady’ Paruz. ‘Ameriklectic’ played a few Scott Munson jazz compositions which were a huge hit.
Three musical saw players traveled from Osaka, Japan to participate in the festival. Another group, including saw players Chelsea Winter, Sharif Vikili and Natalia Paruz played a ragtime jazz piece composed by Eyal Bat which was commissioned by the festival. Judy Dimino accompanied them on the piano.
All participating musical saw players. Photographer: Pat Merino
Saw musicians are not without a sense of humor. Paul Gherson provided alternative lyrics to Gershwin’s Summertime which brought chuckles from the audience. Hip Hop poet Mason Granger recited a poem he’d written about the musical saw. And Doc George Hiller played Jimmy Hendrix style tunes on his amplified saw which he has creatively attached to guitar pedals to create new sounds.
One member of the audience, Jeffrey Dayton of Long Island, remarked, “To finally see what I have only read about is an experience I will never forget. I will cherish this memory for a lifetime”. Segments from the program were broadcast by CBS and Reuters. The program received some funding from the Queens Council Of The Arts.