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"What has always gratified me is that all take ownership of the organization and its mission with no less than religious zeal," wrote Gretna Music founder Carl Ellenberger in the organization's recent program.

As the Gretna Music program prepares to celebrate 40 years of summer music programming in the secluded hamlet of Mt. Gretna, Ellenberger's statement seems appropriate.

"It is special because of that. It signifies 40 years of great music in a great place," said Carl Kane, of Gretna Music.

"There are quite a few people who are part of the extended family, and to whom the 40 years means 40 years of great music and memories," he said

After more than 1,200 acts from major cities and universities all around the world have graced Mt. Gretna stages, the Gretna Music family is still growing with this summer's events.

But 40 years of music has never been as easy as the organization makes it look. Each summer series requires dedicated planning throughout the rest of the year.

"We usually start planning right after the previous summer," said Kane. He explained that the process often takes from "late September to late April."

This summer Gretna Music is pulling out all the stops, with big local and national names alike.

"Because it's the 40th anniversary, we allowed ourselves to take a little more risk financially," said Kane.

What this means for music lovers in the area is one of the most exciting summer concert programs created, including traditional fan favorites and bold musical debuts.

"We do have a lot of folks who like to come and come back frequently, but we also like to keep it fresh and bring in new people. We really try to strike a balance between the two," said Kane.

With this balance comes a huge variety in programming, from classical and jazz to popular music and satire.

There is also a healthy mix of acts presenting repertoire performed elsewhere with performances unique to Mt. Gretna.

"Most of our concerts are concerts you can only hear at Mt. Gretna," said Kane.

Some of this summer's season highlights include:

• A performance by pianist Leon Fleisher with his wife, fellow pianist Katherine Jacobson Fleisher on Wednesday, July 1 at 7:30 p.m. Kane explained that Leon Fleisher "really is a legend."

"Records from his early career are still valuable and still considered collector's items," he said.

He became famous for giving left-hand piano performances after he was stricken by focal dystonia, a neurological affliction which left two fingers of his right hand immobile at the age of 36.

"In the early 2000's, he finally regained use of his right hand through Botox injections," said Kane.

• Humorists The Capitol Steps will be back at the Gretna stage on Friday, July 3 at 7:30 p.m. with their popular and unique brand of universal political satire

"They are just a hoot," said Kane about the group, whose shows focus on "making fun of politicians of all stripes, and us for voting for them."

• Two performances by the Gretna Chamber Festival Orchestra will take place with pianist Lisa de la Salle on Sunday, Aug. 2 and on Saturday, Aug. 8 with soloists Anne Sullivan on harp, Frank Kowalsky on clarinet, and Gretna Music founder Carl Ellenberger on flute. Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m.

"Both will end with Mozart concertos," said Kane.

• Gretna Music will host "An Evening with Mark Russell," the infamous political satirist who Kane described as a "one man Capitol Steps," on Friday, Aug. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Russell, host of PBS's "Mark Russell Comedy Special" for 30 years, will be "making fun of the dopey things politicians do," said Kane, and eliciting roars from the crowd at his Gretna debut.

• Joanna Pascale and Paul Jost, vocalists, will join the Matthew Parrish Quartet for the "Paul McCartney Songbook" on Sunday, Aug. 9 at 7:30 p.m. The performance will showcase song's written by throughout the influential musician's career, though is distinctly "not a Beatles tribute," said Kane.

"It will be Joanna Pascale and Paul Jost's very jazz oriented take. So you might hear Eleanor Rigby from a jazzy perspective," he said.

• Blues harmonica virtuoso Phil Wiggins and his band The Chesapeake Sheiks will conjure up an evening of traditional blues with Piedmont, Delta and jazz influences on Friday, Aug. 28 at 7:30 p.m.

"This is the first time we're presenting a blues act," said Kane.

• The 35th annual Central PA Jazz Festival comes to Gretna on Saturday, Aug. 29, headlined by Freddy Cole, brother of jazz legend Nat "King" Cole and himself a wildly talented singer, at 7:30 p.m.

"He's a fantastic jazz vocalist," said Kane.

• Jazz group The New Black Eagles take the summer stage one last time on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 7:30 p.m.

"This is their 39th year with us, and this is also their last year with us. That will be somewhat bittersweet, but I'm sure it will be a very nice evening," said Kane.

A farewell barbecue will be held before the show from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and a jazz worship with the group on Sunday, Sept. 6 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

For a full list of events as well as ticket information, visit Gretna Music online at gretnamusic.org.

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