Since its start, Astoria has become a pilgrimage spot for musical saw players from all over the world. The festival is in the Guinness Book of Records for the ‘Largest Musical saw Ensemble’ with 53 saw players playing together, beating the previous record from Poland (28 saw players).
The festival, made possible by funds from the Decentralization Program, a re-grant program of the New York State Council on the Arts and administered by the Queens Council on the Arts, includes a world premier of music written for four musical saws (first time ever such an instrumentation has been composed for!).
Also expect the ‘Chorus of the Saws’ - up to 40 musical saw players playing together. Many music styles (classical, contemporary, pop, folk, show-tunes, etc.) will be performed by musical saw soloists & ensembles from all over the world.
The festival will also feature an art exhibit revolving around the 300 year old art of playing music on a carpenter’s handsaw at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.
We caught up with the Saw Lady herself to find out what more is in store at this year’s festival.
LF: What are you expecting this year?
NP: Thirty seven musical saw players have registered to participate in this year’s festival. They come from as far away as India and Japan and from as near by as Astoria and Sunnyside. There are many participants for whom it is their first time at the festival, and others who return to the festival every year. The range of music I expect to hear at the festival goes from classical and contemporary music to folk and rock. There will also be recitation of poetry (about the musical saw) by poet Willa France and an art exhibit featuring 11 artists.The concert will probably last for close to 4 hours (you really get your $10 dollars’ admission price worth!).
LF: Anything different this year from the previous years?
NP: We have many musical saw players participating this year whom we haven’t seen/heard in previous years. Also, we have a world premier of a piece by composer Eyal Bat for 4 musical saws. Now this is a first time such instrumentation is composed for, ever!
Also, in the past we only had one workshop for the musicians - this year we have four different workshops that will educate both beginner and advanced sawists (musical saw players).
Also - something the festival learned from the LIC Journal: inspired by the use of QR codes in the LIC Journal, the festival’s flyer this year is interactive! It sports a QR code that when scanned by a smart-phone gives you a free MP3 of musical saw music!
LF: Why is it so important that you hold this festival in Queens as opposed to anywhere else?
NP: So many people told me that I should move the festival to Manhattan, but the festival got its start in Queens (as did I) and I would like to keep it here. The community enthusiasm and support for the festival means the world to me - I wouldn’t have had the energy and the joy to do it without it. The Queens Council on the Arts have been wonderful in helping me bring my originally small festival to new heights.
There is also a personal reason - I am a long time Queens resident myself and I love my borough. I take pride in introducing my borough to the people who travel to the festival from elsewhere. I find that too many people don’t even know that Queens is part of NYC!
The festival brings tourists to Astoria, who then go to dinner at local restaurants and get to know our corner of the world. It is important to me to give back to my own community through the festival. The festival brings people of all origins (and ages) together and helps integrate the community. In short - in my heart the festival and the Queens community are one.
Where: Hellenic Cultural Center, 27-09 Crescent Street, Astoria, NY 11102
Admission: $10. For more information, check out the MusicSawFestival site