Music Spotlight: Karen Gross looks to hit another High Note

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Karen Gross

In what previously were normal times, if the subject line in an e-mail said – “Need a lift? – you might think it was an e-mail from Uber or another ride-sharing service.

This week, it was the subject line in an e-mail sent out by singer-songwriter Karen Gross and the lift offered was spiritual rather than transportation-oriented.

Gross, who has built a reputation as a top-flight performer in Chester County and around the Delaware Valley, started the e-mail with this message –

“Hello friends,
The past few days have brought wave after wave of emotion. We need a moment to pause and be still. We need each other. More than ever, we need a space for hope, healing, and community.

A few weeks ago, the first High Note brought people together from across the globe. It was a balm for the spirit. I invite you to be part of our next convening.”

She followed with – “You and yours are invited to ‘The High Note: An Uplifting Global Convening,’ at 1 p.m. EST, Saturday, June 6, 2020.”

Gross offered an explanation of the project –

“What is the High Note?

– A free, 30-minute video call, with an uplifting meditation, inspirational Q&A, and live music
– A gentle, safe, and reflective space for all
– A time for hope, healing, and community
– A place to learn ways of staying centered and creative in the midst of uncertainty
– An invitation to envision and imagine a more peaceful world.”

The project is available via ZOOM at

“I hope that it’s helpful for people in different ways,” said Gross, during a phone interview Wednesday evening. “People are connecting from all over the world in a different way.”

Naila Francis

Gross will be joined in the presentation by Naila Francis and Jennifer Blaine.

On her Facebook page, Gross posted this message on June 3 —

“Hello friends, The past few days have brought wave after wave of emotion. I stand with people of color against #racism. I continue to learn, listen, and reflect on how we can join hands as a human family. I am joining with Naila Francis and Jennifer Blaine to present “The High Note: An Uplifting Global Convening.’

“It’s a space for all, with an uplifting meditation, inspirational Q&A, and live music — a time for hope, healing, and community. The last High Note brought people together from around the world. It was a balm for the spirit. I invite you to be part of our next convening.”

Francis is a certified From Grief to Gratitude™ coach, an ordained interfaith minister, a poet, and an accomplished writer.

As a newspaper entertainment writer, Francis has interviewed hundreds of artists and entertainers including James Earl Jones, Elizabeth Gilbert, Bobby McFerrin, k.d. lang, and Pink.

In addition to covering arts and entertainment in the Philadelphia region, Francis has shared stories from her own life in her popular column — Life in LaLa Land. She has won Philadelphia, PA and NJ awards for her work, and her freelance writing has appeared online at Mystic Pop, vensuzine, Sharkpreneur and

According to Francis, “Writing is an intrinsic part of me. I can’t really separate it from who I am.”

Francis has been a featured presenter at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference alongside Jonathan Mayberry and Solomon Jones. She has been a panelist for the Philadelphia Songwriters Project, a guest emcee for Bloomingdale’s events, and a guest tweeter with Opera Philadelphia.

Francis, whose roots are in the Caribbean island nation St. Lucia, is also a “Citizen of the World” — a world traveler whose journeys have taken her to Tanzania as an orphanage volunteer, Mallorca to study poetry and Peru, where she climbed Machu Picchu Mountain with a shaman as her guide.

Jennifer Blaine

Blaine is a life coach who listens for and supports people’s best selves. She is a certified coach from the Hendricks Institute and a member of the American Counseling Association. She works with people around the world. As one client reports, “Jennifer provides a safe, supportive environment to explore my most audacious goals and dreams — and practical ideas to put my dreams into action right away.”

On her website, Blaine is billed as an actor, comedian, playwright, and character chameleon. She has been performing one-woman shows for 25 years. Her original writing, performing, and comedy delve into serious and socially relevant issues and provides audiences the opportunity to unite in laughter.

Blaine has opened for George Carlin, performed with Chris Rock and Joe Piscopo, and has worked with Glenda Jackson, Christopher Plummer, Laura Linney, Joanne Woodward, and Paul Newman. She starred in the animated series “Teddy P. Brains,” in which she played a precocious brainy boy, and has lent her voice to hundreds of voiceover projects.

Additionally, Blaine was the resident Theatre Teaching Artist at the Showstoppers program at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts from 2013-2018 in which she created four original plays on topical issues from bullying to civil rights. She produced the “5,000 Women” festival, showcasing women artists and social activists, at The Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University in 2011 and 2012 and in Philadelphia in 2014.

“Jennifer is a talented solo performer, comedienne and a life coach,” said Gross. “I’ve benefitted from her coaching – as a performer and as a person.”

This will be the second edition of “The High Note.” The first – “The High Note: A Virtual Dose of Hope, Community and Positivity” – took place in March.

“When the pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown, the ‘High Note’ on March 28 was a response to people being isolated,” said Gross.

“I had an idea of creating an uplifting moment – 30 minutes on ZOOM – a moment of hope where we can try to be optimistic. Jennifer and Blaine came to mind right away because they do so much good. Jennifer always has a positive thing to say through humor.

“In the March ‘High Note,’ Naila led a really beautiful meditation and gave a glorious blessing. Jennifer provided some inspirational guidance on ways to go with the pandemic. Then, I came and performed an original song called, ‘Walk Alone.’ I wrote it years ago, but it has some resonance now.”

After the March 28 presentation, Gross posted this —

Gross is a talented singer and storyteller…a composer of heartfelt original music. She is also a throwback to a bygone era…a playful chanteuse who can perform sophisticated, sassy cabaret shows.

She has performed at prestigious venues including Lincoln Center in New York City and the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

The versatile entertainer has built a large fanbase in the Northeast with her ability to charms audiences with her warmth, wit, and heartfelt singing. She has headlined celebrated cabaret and music clubs including The Metropolitan Room, Don’t Tell Mama, Tin Angel, and Cabaret at Odette’s. She was the featured entertainer at a private party in Frank Sinatra’s former NYC penthouse, featured on the HGTV show “Selling New York.”

Gross has built a large fanbase in the Northeast with her ability to charms audiences with her warmth, wit, and heartfelt singing. She has headlined celebrated cabaret and music clubs including The Metropolitan Room, Don’t Tell Mama, Tin Angel, and Cabaret at Odette’s. She was the featured entertainer at a private party in Frank Sinatra’s former NYC penthouse, featured on the HGTV show “Selling New York.”

Gross has an extensive musical repertoire – from timeless jazz and Broadway standards to contemporary and original music – and she also engages audiences with classy, sassy humor. She has scripted, performed, and produced a number of popular cabaret shows, including a sold-out concert of Oscar Hammerstein’s music at his longtime home, Highland Farm, and a Roaring Twenties-themed cabaret at the Studio of Ben Solowey.

“I love playing traditional clubs, but I also like performing in alternate spaces – like the show I did at the Studio of Ben Solowey,” said Gross. “His studio is an arts installation that is like a mini-museum dedicated to his work. I performed in an intimate gallery space. I’ve done three shows there.”

Gross is like a modern-day Renaissance woman. She has recorded her original music with three Grammy Award-winning producers. Her voice and lyrics can also be heard on electronic dance music developed in collaboration with her brother, Silk Music label director Jacob Henry, and globally recognized producers Dinka, Mango, and Aeron Aether.

Video link for Karen Gross performing “Walk Alone” —

“My music life has definitely been affected by the pandemic,” said Gross. “I did have shows that were scheduled become cancelled because of this. I also just finished recording some songs at Cambridge Studio in Philadelphia, but they won’t be released for a while now.

“On this Saturday’s presentation, I’ll be singing a new song –‘A Place Called Peace.” Naila will be on first to give a blessing. Then, Jennifer will be coaching and chat with viewers. Then, I’ll sing a song and we’ll finish with a chat with the viewers.

“This is not a happy-go-lucky cheerful event. People can grieve if they want to. It’s an opportunity to come together, breathe and try to gather strength.”

Another uplifting internet music event is The Kennedys’ weekly production – “The Kennedys’ Livestreaming Show.”

This week’s edition – “The Kennedys Special ‘River Of Fallen Stars’ 25th Anniversary Livestream — is scheduled for June 7 at 2 p.m.

These shows have happened every Sunday since the pandemic shut us all in back in early March. These intimate, all-request live-streaming concerts come straight from the talented husband-and-wife duo’s New York apartment to your home.

According to the Kennedys’ Facebook page – “We feature uplifting music that will make you forget about your worries for an hour and put a smile on your face.”

The link for “The Kennedys’ Livestreaming Show” is –

Jorma Kaukonen

Jorma Kaukonen performs his 10th free solo “Quarantine Concert from the Fur Peace Ranch” on June 6 at 8 p.m. For more than two months, Kaukonen has been performing, telling true-life tales and talking about his songs, often playing them on the very guitar he wrote the song on. It is a fascinating look at this artist’s history and influences.

The Fur Peace Ranch Station Live Stream Concert link is —

Video link for Jorma Kaukonen —

Troubadour 77 is the brainchild of Grammy award-winning singer-songwriters — Monty Powell (Guitar/Vocals) and Chester County native Anna Wilson (Piano/Lead Vocals).

Troubadour 77 posted the following message on its website – “The Revolution & Redemption Tour has been cancelled due to COVID-19. We are doing virtual concerts on our FACEBOOK LIVE page that we call T77 SQUARED CONCERTS. They will air every Thursday evening at 7 p.m. MST.”

The next edition of “T77 SQUARED CONCERTS” is scheduled for June 4 at 8 p.m. (eastern) at

Video link for Troubadour 77 —

“Pickathon Presents A Concert A Day” will have Marco Benevento on June 4, Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band on June 5, Ghost-Note on June 6 and CAAMP on June 7.

Link for the concerts is the Pickathon Facebook page —

Ropeadope and 21Soul Present: The Ropeadope Music and Arts Festival on June 4 and 5.

The two-day event will feature live appearances, pre-recorded solo sets, Q&A between artists, and an online hangout with dozens of Ropeadope artists on hand for Q&A with fans and general positive presentations for the world.

The artists scheduled for June 4 are Dekel Bor & Steve Albini, Greg Spero, Mark de Clive-Lowe and Aaron Parks, Darren Hoffman, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and Sarah Elizabeth Charles.

The June 5 line-up features Johanna Burnheart, Deker Bor Trio, Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Bright Dog Red, and Mike Larry Draw.

More information can be found at

The Earl Scruggs Music Festival Month of Mondays airs every Monday at 8 p.m. EDT on the ScruggsFest FB page —

The schedule is: June 8: Anna Lynch; June 15: Showcasing Earl Scruggs & The Earl Scruggs Center (Interview and Virtual Tour); June 22: Alison Brown; and June 29: Chatham Rabbits.

A good source of live/virtual music every week is the Philadelphia Orchestra ( Audiences can watch both past and previously unreleased Philadelphia Orchestra performances every Thursday night at 8 p.m.

The presentation on June 4 will also include a “Pre-Concert Conversation with Yannick” at 7:30 p.m.  with Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Orchestra President and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky in advance of the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra’s presentation of Bruckner’s Final Symphony.

The Metropolitan Opera ( is offering “Live Opera Streams” nightly with a schedule that this week includes such classics as “Macbeth,” “Don Carlo” and “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” (“The Barber of Seville”).

The schedule for the upcoming week includes June 4, Puccini’s “Tosca” — Taking place in Rome in 1800, the story concerns a fiery yet devoted diva, the painter/revolutionary she loves, and a sadistic police chief determined to crush political rebellion and claim Tosca for himself; and June 5, Thomas Adès’s “The Exterminating Angel” — Adès’s modern opera is a powerful exploration of isolation and confinement that feels particularly relevant today. Adès creates a unique and captivating sound world, incorporating a number of unusual instruments into the orchestra and asking for increasingly acrobatic vocal feats from the singers to match the escalating confusion and desperation of their characters as their captivity stretches endlessly on.

Also featured are: June 6, Verdi’s “Otello” — In his towering penultimate opera, Verdi distills Shakespeare’s tragedy to its purest elements and demonstrates his unsurpassed mastery of characterization and pacing. Unlike his earlier works, which featured many memorable, self-contained arias, duets, and ensemble numbers, Otello proceeds almost seamlessly, with no interruption of the dramatic momentum; and June 7, Massenet’s “Thaïs” — It is the most operatic of scenarios: The devotion of an ascetic monk who has dedicated his life to God is tested against the allure of the world’s most voluptuous, seductive courtesan.

Sofar Sounds ( has these streams upcoming – Chartreuse — Live from Birmingham on June 4; Dandara Manoela — Live from Florianópolis on June 5; and Lisa Canny — Live from London on June 6.

ONCE Somerville ( is a place for fans of the venue to interact and enjoy performances under the ONCE Presents identity. The programming will range from music to comedy, yoga, tutorials and more. The following is the lineup for the upcoming week: Snotty Nose Rez Kids on June 4; A Stah Is Born, June 4; Ezra Bell, June 5; Disq + Honey Cutt, June 5; and The Satanic Chef on June 10.

Alto saxophonist and educator Alexa Tarantino and pianist and composer Steven Feifke are presenting weekly jazz livestream concerts instituted after the lockdown at

Jokingly dubbing themselves Alexa Quarantino and Steven Lock-and-Feifke, they began with an evening of vibrant originals on March 15. They continued with weeks devoted to Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan, Jackie McLean, Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Songs of Broadway, the Great American Songbook and Songs of Springtime.

Tarantino’s new Posi-Tone quartet recording “Clarity” will be released on June 5, so the duo will devote June 7 to music from the album (which features Feifke, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Rudy Royston). Future themes include Thelonious Monk (June 14), Steven Feifke’s original music (June 21 – Feifke’s birthday with onscreen celebration!), and Simply Sinatra (June 28).

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