Gretna Music swings into August with Mark Russell, Paul McCartney Songbook
The music never stops at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse as Gretna Music rolls into August with another set of concerts and performances.
This year, Gretna Music celebrates 40 years of quality music at its summer home in Mt. Gretna, and is making use of its experience to showcase major talent.
On Friday, Aug. 7, the organization presents "An Evening with Mark Russell." Russell, the political satirist who came to fame through PBS' "Mark Russell Comedy Specials," is gracing the Gretna stage for the first time.
"I should be able to fill the first row seats," he joked.
After many decades in satire, Russell announced his retirement in 2010. Not long after, however, he found himself faced with what he called "boredom."
"I just kept writing songs just for my own amusement. I wound up being an amusing dinner-guest," said Russell.
Dinners turned out to be the wrong stage, as he explained, because as he neared the punch line, "the waiter would come over and start listing off the specials."
In 2013, he came out of retirement and began performing publicly once more.
"I enjoy it and it's fun," said Russell, who believes that the goal of humor is "to give another perspective, and not to take ourselves too seriously."
Luckily, he chose to lampoon an industry based on seriousness, as he explained about major newscasters.
"They're incapable of using any kind of humor, which I guess is good for me," said Russell.
The satirist also chooses to take a nonpartisan approach to comedy in his routine.
"I manage to offend everybody in the audience, but not at the same time. It's equally balanced," said Russell.
The routine works, because audiences on both sides are willing to embrace the jokes.
"Republicans tell me Democrats have no sense of humor. Democrats tell me Republicans have no sense of humor. They're both wrong," he said.
Nowadays, Russell is not looking to retire for quite a while.
"I'll probably retire when my audience dies or when I die, whichever comes first," he joked.
That same weekend, on Sunday, Aug. 9, the Matthew Parrish Quartet will be performing "The Paul McCartney Songbook" alongside guest vocalists Paul Jost and Joanna Pascale.
The concert will include examples of McCartney's songwriting from all eras of his career and various groups.
"The Paul McCartney Songbook idea was the result of the organization's request to combine jazz performance elements based on a pop vein. After examining the work of Paul McCartney, it was a no brainier that his songbook would deliver the most rewarding results," said Matthew Parrish, bassist and leader of the Matthew Parrish Quartet.
Paul Jost sings regularly at the prestigious 55 Bar in New York City, has worked on more than 40 CDs and released his first solo album, Breaking Through, in 2014.
He was also recently commissioned to reimagine Bruce Springsteen's album Born to Run in a jazz vein for the Exit 0 Jazz Festival in Cape May, NJ.
Jost will be singing personal arrangements of classics McCartney tunes such as "We Can Work it Out" and "Come Together."
"The extraordinary Joanna Pascal and I are scheduled to sing a few duets together, as well," said Jost.
Pascal, a Philadelphia native, released an album of her own in 2015 titled Wildflower, selections of which the group will also perform. She is a member of the faculty at Temple University and has been featured on a number of recordings.
Parrish had great things to say of the organization, saying he is "especially delighted to contribute to Mt. Gretna's program."
"The venue is also spectacular and the audience seems to truly appreciate the artistry of the performances," he said.
Other upcoming performances include two concerts given by the Gretna 40th Anniversary Festival Chamber Orchestra. The first, on Sunday, Aug. 2, features special guest pianist Lisa de la Salle making her Gretna Music debut. The second, on Saturday, Aug. 8, features solos by flutist Carl Ellenberger, harpist Anne Sullivan and clarinetist Frank Kowalsky
All concerts will be held at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices vary per seat and event. Visit www.gretnamusic.org for ticket pricing, sales and more information.