Orcas saw player performs with Seattle Symphony

A saw from Island Hardware and Supply made its way from Orcas Island to the stage of Benaroya Hall for the Seattle Symphony’s opening season gala.

Anita Orne, who has played on the same musical saw for more than 20 years, was asked to perform with the symphony after a last minute instrument change.

“Most of the second half is a piano concerto, and the maestro decided shortly before the concert that it needed to be a saw player for the flexitone portion,” said Orne.

She was recommended by one of the symphony’s percussionists, who is a good friend of hers. Orne’s part was only 90 seconds so she was able to learn it in a short time period. The concert was Sept. 15.

“It was very surreal. I played at the chamber music festival, but that’s with people I know in a place I know. It was very different being part of a real symphony orchestra. Everyone was so nice and enthusiastic,” said Orne, who is also executive director of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival.

Orne performed alongside piano soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in composer Aram Khachaturian’s “Piano Concerto.”

Seattle Times contributor Melinda Bargreen wrote, “Adding to the colorations of the score, an otherworldly second-movement passage incorporated the eerie, exotic sounds of the musical saw — beautifully rendered here by Anita Orne.”

Typically, a saw is held between the player’s knees and played with a bow – much like a cello. Orne also made a clip of what a saw sounds like for the Seattle Symphony’s social media pages.

“It’s an eerie, haunting sound,” she said.

Orne began making music on the unusual instrument two decades ago after grabbing a saw from her mudroom and playing it with her violin bow. Orne also performs on the guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin and ukulele in her groups JP and the OK Rhythm Boys and The Olga Symphony, and she is the music director of the Shaw Island School District. Her classical-saw debut came last summer with the Miro Quartet at the chamber musical festival.

“I now have classical music cred,” Orne laughed.


Piano soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet with Anita Orne.

Piano soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet with Anita Orne.