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Our 42nd Year of presenting concerts in Mt. Gretna. Over 700 main stage concerts

Hundreds of other concerts in Mt. Gretna:

Over 1200 artists have performed at our concerts including: 37 Grammy winners and countless Grammy nominees, five MacArthur fellows, representatives of major orchestras including (but not limited to): New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Dallas Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Seattle Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Baltimore Symphony

Artists have come from most states in the US, Canada, Japan, China, Korea, Spain, Bulgaria, Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Russia, Brazil, Romania, Ukraine, England, South Africa, the Caribbean, and other countries around the globe. Dozens have soloed with the orchestras above and performed in Carnegie Hall, Kennedy and Lincoln Centers, Disney Hall, Hollywood Bowl, Blossom Center and Severance Hall, Tanglewood Shed, Metropolitan Opera, Academy of Music and Verizon Hall, and many of the most prestigious recital halls overseas. All return home with stories and memories about Gretna.

Many of the biggest names in Jazz and Classical Music have graced our stage. We also produce concerts that are original, can’t be seen anywhere else, and have had many works make their world and national premieres on our stage.

Audience in past years: Range 99-1000 (Lionel Hampton). Average over 200-350 for classical; around 400 for jazz. Both averages are higher than for the industry at large, except perhaps in a handful of major metro centers. Since 1993, over 136,000 have attended our concerts.

Singled out by regional papers, and national publications including Time Magazine, Musical America, Philadelphia Inquirer, NYT, The New Yorker.

Records and CD’s have been made of Gretna performances, both by individual performers and commercial recording companies; concerts broadcast by WITF and NPR’s Performance Today, CBS’ Sunday Morning.

We benefit the arts in Mt. Gretna by giving performances, and also introducing residents to artists from all around the world. Gretna residents have made friendships with those they have hosted and, by attending their concerts, learned to like the music they play. Mixing artists and Gretna residents has been an important part of our mission. Countless Gretna residents have volunteered for us and have, we believe, been rewarded by new friendships, a greater sense of community, and perhaps a broadened taste in music.

Our Beginnings

In 1975 John Wenzler, retired steel worker and Summer Program Director for the 83-year-old Pennsylvania Chautauqua asked new Gretna resident, physician/flutist Carl Ellenberger, to organize two concerts in the Mt. Gretna “Hall of Philosophy.” Ellenberger seized the opportunity to invite old friends from Interlochen and Eastman to visit and play chamber music. They had so much fun that the next summer he organized 4 concerts in the Playhouse, unexpectedly dark for the first time in 50 years.

A Hershey Medical colleague, microbiologist/bassist Dr. Tim Carter, introduced Ellenberger to the Audubon Quartet, then in residence at Marywood College in Scranton and looking for a summer home. They came to Gretna in 1977 with friends and joined Ellenberger and his friends. Also that year Ellenberger heard The New Black Eagle Jazz Band on NPR and learned that his Yale Medical School friend, Eli Newberger, was their tuba player so he invited them to come from Boston.

Some Gretna denizens were taken aback by the idea of chamber music and jazz in the backwoods. Other people flooded into the Playhouse to hear the music. They came year after year because the music was played well.

Why We Still Do It

“We all discovered that a string quartet could bring quiet magic to our open Playhouse in the woods. The players were people we wanted to know as well as hear. We all were grateful to be there.

I can’t say how many lives we touched along our journey so far: students dreaming of careers in music; Gretna denizens discovering the music of Charles Ives; young musicians trying their wings; veteran musicians warming to attentive audiences; neighborhood hosts following their favorite quintet to Spain; orchestra musicians playing happily without a conductor; board and staff members exploring their own talents, skills, and passion; innumerable friendships budding among everyone who came together to listen, volunteer, or perform; and everyone discovering of the vast universe of music to be explored.

If we had any success it was because we insisted on music and musicians we strongly believed in regardless of whether we thought they would fill the seats. Lose yourself for a quiet interval in another world communicating in a beautiful wordless language with other souls. A small piece of Life as it should be.”

–Carl Ellenberger, Founder, board member, blogger, pizza and salad maker

About Music at Gretna

Μusic at Gretna has filled the Mt. Gretna Playhouse with music since 1976 and Leffler Performance Center at Elizabethtown College since 1995. At the core of our mission is the great stream of Western music that began a millennium ago in Europe and gathered force as musicians from all countries and continents joined the flow through centuries. Among humanity's greatest achievements, that music has become a universal means of communication that can be enhanced by expressive and creative performance. We try to be courageous explorers of our vast musical universe.
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