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International musicians flock to Astoria to collaborate New York City Musical Saw Festival performers to put on show, host workshops on unique instrument

Natalia Paruz only walks a short distance to get to the festival she holds every year, but some fly in from as far away as Germany, India and Japan to perform with the woman Queens knows as the “Saw Lady.”

“It’s nice that a lot of them have never been to the Saw Festival before,” Paruz said of the more than 30 saw players who have registered for this year’s event.

Saw players create music by placing the base of a handsaw — usually one without teeth that is created for playing — between their legs and running a violin bow across the saw as they bend it. On July 16 at 2 p.m., the ninth-annual New York City Musical Saw Festival will showcase these players at the Hellenic Cultural Center, at 27-09 Crescent St. in Astoria.

Paruz said these musicians, who represent an international roster along with Americans, will be using the saw to play a variety of musical styles, from folk to rock to pop.

“Even though you’re going to see 30 different people playing the same instrument, every person brings a different character into their playing,” she said.

Paruz, a former dancer who developed a passion for the musical saw after a car accident left her unable to dance, began the festival when saw players in other parts of the country asked to meet up with her. Paruz would bring along local saw players at the meet-up, and the festival grew from there.

“The Saw Festival aims to preserve the past, honor the present and help shape the future of the artform of playing music on a saw,” Paruz said.

This year is expected to be special for the Saw Festival. In addition to the large number of saw players, the festival will host four workshops.

In the past, the festival usually only held one, but this year Maine player Joel Eckhaus will demonstrate how to play the saw with a long bow, New York player Doc George will teach a session on how to play the saw by tapping a xylophone hammer against it, Minnesota saw player Adam Wirtzfeld will demonstrate how to play two notes at once on a saw and Gene Nichols, an associate professor of music at the University of Maine, will hold a workshop on playing a saw with an orchestra.

“It lends even more legitimacy to the instrument,” Paruz said of music professor Nichols´╗┐ hosting a workshop on playing with a saw.

The festival will feature a new piece by Eyal Bat, a composer for the musical saw who has now written a piece for four saws and a piano. Paruz will also release her second album, “I Saw the Future.”

A goal of Paruz’s festival has always been to help the instrument be seen as more than just a novelty instrument. She said playing on the saw goes back 300 years and began as a folk tradition in many different places around the world.

“It’s very relaxing and soothing and it’s a kind of otherworldly,” Paruz said of saw music. “It’s a sound all on its own. It doesn’t really sound like any other musical instrument.”

A saw festival ticket costs $10. For more information, visit musicalsawfestival.org.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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