The Saratoga Sun -

Music on the road

Musical 'gypsies' play Saratoga on their way through Wyoming


Mike Armstrong

Marilyn Priddy and Carl Bernstein make Firewater Public House a stop on their road.

Carl Bernstein and Marilyn Priddy rolled into Saratoga on June 13 in the early afternoon and approached Tona Hall, manager of Firewater Public House (Firewater) about singing and playing music for food and tips.

Hall listened to the couple's pitch and after trying to get in touch with owner Danny Burau with no success, she decided to give them a chance.

After the deal was done, the couple left to get their instruments, a cello and guitar. Although their music is acoustic they have state of the art sound equipment to amplify their music.

Burau came in before the group was to play and was happy Hall had told them to come back.

"Our full name is Firewater Public House and I wanted to create a place where people can feel comfortable coming to," Burau said. "Public house is a longer name for 'pub.' In Scotland the pub was the gathering place in small towns to meet."

He said Bernstein and Priddy coming to Saratoga and asking to play for food and tips was exactly what he wanted to see happen at Firewater.

"It was a dream scenario for me," Burau said. "That this couple would be driving by and see our place and say, we want to play there."

He said it meant something they chose his place because he wants musicians to feel comfortable to play at Firewater.

"It is a legit dream to have people like Marilyn and Carl want to play for food, because it means that they value what we are doing, as we value them," Burau said.

He said he enjoyed the music Priddy and Bernstien played which was a mix of classical, jazz, blues and old time favorite love songs.

"There was something fascinating about how Marilyn and Carl played because I have tried to bring in bands that play music that isn't the expected," Burau said. "If you want to hear good live country music, it is available in town as is even a little bit of bar rock music."

He said he wants Firewater to be a little different and Priddy and Bernstien are the type of musicians he envisioned to play at Firewater.

"I would never have known how to track this couple down, much less try to get them to come to town," Burau said explaining his delight at hearing them.

Priddy was born in Texas. Her instrument of specialty at the moment is the cello. Priddy said learning to play that has been recent in comparison to her musical career. She has been playing cello for six years.

"My father told me when I was in fifth grade to pick out someone I admired and watch them," Priddy said. "There was this girl a little older and very elegant who played the cello and she was who I wanted to be like."

Priddy said she never really talked to the cello player she admired, but fate let Priddy see her role model three decades later.

"I went to a concert in Santa Fe and there was Sally Gunther, thirty years later playing the cello," Priddy said. "Even after that we didn't stay in touch but I know she was first chair in the Norway orchestra."

Time went by and six years ago, Priddy was working part time at a music store in Las Vegas, N.M. and a cello came in on consignment.

"I bought it immediately and realized I needed a teacher," Priddy said. "I was told of a cello teacher who was teaching at the United World College in Taos and it was Sally."

Priddy learned cello from the person she picked out in fifth grade as her role model.

Priddy said she formed several bands in Texas before moving to New Mexico. She said she has had enough success she has been able to sing for a living.

Bernstein was trained academically in the classical guitar although he said he played folk music and jazz. He graduated from Wayne State University in classical guitar in the 70s and immediately went to South America and toured with the U.S. State Department sponsored music groups for over seven years.

Coming back to the U.S., he found jobs as a music professor at several colleges and played with bands on the side.

That is how he met Priddy. Her group was looking for a guitarist and Bernstein applied in 2001. They have been together since, as partners in both life and music.

"It is intentional not to line anything up," Bernstein said. "We were in Centennial for a couple days and played there. It was fantastic, spontaneous and a perfect example of the reason we seldom book ahead for any place if we don't have to."

Mike Armstrong

Patrons of the Firewater Public House eat, relax and listen to the music of Marilyn Priddy and Carl Bernstein.

The couple recently left Mexico, where they played for several months, to head for British Colombia in their custom-music-instrument-carrying touring RV. They have friends in the Canadian province who have invited them to go sailing.

"Our music continues to be a deep spiritual element in our lives," Bernstein and Priddy both said. "What a blessing to growing musically alone and together and at every opportunity we share our music with others in a variety of ways depending on our situation and location."

When Priddy and Bernstein complete their time in Canada, they will go back to New Mexico to drop off their RV at their home in Las Vegas and go to Ecuador where they have been invited to visit.

Bernstein speaks fluent Spanish and said they will visit the South American country the way they do all places.

Playing music and meeting new people who appreciate the way they live their life.


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