Wednesday, December 26, 2012

PAAC'd with Talent Open Mic Night / Friday, January 11th, 2013, 6-9:30pm

PAAC'd with Talent Open Mic Night / Friday, January 11th, 2013

6-7pm K-8 Students
7:30-9:30pm Adults (15yrs and older)

Hartland Music
1125 James Drive, Hartland, WI

Calling ALL poets, musicians, visual artists, songwriters, comedians, actors and performers extraordinaire in Lake Country!  The Pewaukee Area Arts Council will be sponsoring a community, multi-genre open mic night at Hartland Music on Friday, January 11th.  There will be a youth hour from 6-7pm, open to K-8 elementary and middle school students.  The adult hour will be from 7:30-9:30pm ~ open to all ages over 15 yrs.  There will be a microphone and a piano available.  For artists wishing to discuss a piece of artwork, we will have an easel set up.  (*We do not have enough floor space for dancers, sorry.)

If you would like to perform, please get your name on the sign-up list early!  Limited slots are available.  Walk-ins welcome, if time allows.  Please contact either Liz Rhodebeck (262-695-2761) or Cristina Norcross (

We hope to see you there either as a performer or as an arts supporter!  Come warm up on a cold, winter night for some music, poetry, art, good company and a coffee or hot chocolate at the Hartland Music coffee shop, Backstage Coffee!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Talking to SIGNALS

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.
Leonard Cohen

Several months ago, I had the great honor of having musicians Greg Wilson and Dan Gutwein, of the Virginia-based band Signals, ask if they could use the words from my poem, "When August Becomes a Whisper," to create a song.  My response?  Yes, please!  What poet wouldn't want their words set to music?  This was a very good thing.

Setting poetry to music is no small task, especially when the poem is free verse ~ no rhyme scheme, no meter, no structure except whatever my sub-conscious decided to string out in a long line of images onto paper.

Greg and Dan did an admirable job of making the words fit - bringing new life to this poem, by creating atmosphere through notes, melody and voice.  To listen to "When August Becomes a Whisper," just click HERE, to visit their Reverbnation page (Signals1234).

I thought my readers would enjoy learning more about the inspiration, not just for this song, but the core of what helps songwriters create from the source of their own musical beginnings.  Below is a short interview session that I was fortunate to have with lead vocalist and guitarist, Greg Wilson from Signals.  Sit back, open up your mind to the land of musical influences and enjoy!

Dan Gutwein and Greg Wilson


Members: Dan Gutwein - Percussion, Guitars / Greg Wilson - Guitars, Vocals

Bio: “When the silent road meets the broken bridge up and down 81 and west on 429 there will be the signals straining to stretch the bounderies of the limitless universe.” 

Visit SIGNALS on their Facebook page HERE.  Click LIKE!

1.     When did you first develop a love for music?

       My love for music developed in 1966 {I was 5 years old} with, "The Sound of Music".  I love musicals and still do, but I love alternative rock and experimental music.  It feeds the soul more than pop, country or heavy metal.

2.     Who are your songwriting heroes?  / What are your musical influences?

      My songwriting "Hero" would be David Bowie.  Nothing he does shocks me or doesn't influence me.  My musical influences are Bowie, The Smiths, Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello and Midnight Oil.

Dan Gutwein

3.     How do you approach a song?  Do the words come first?  Does the music come first?  Or is it a combination of inspiration for the two coming together?

      I'm really not sure how I approach a song.  Music just grabs me and takes over like an out of body experience.  It moves me, whether it be a slow song like a ballad or a fast paced, heavy-laden, guitar based song.  Most times, an idea comes to me in the middle of the night, and I have to get up and feed the beast.  Sometimes it makes for a long night.  Sometimes the music comes first, like "When August becomes a Whisper."  I already had the music to it, as I had been fooling around with some different chord structures, and it just....well was there.  When I saw your poem, I just thought it would be a good fit to what the music was already saying.  Sure, there were some adjustments, but at the end of the day, I think it worked out.  Phrasing the melody line with free-form words was an incredible challenge, but one I like taking on.  Like anything in life, the harder it is to learn, the longer it stays with you.

4.     From start to finish, how long does it take you to write a song?  Does each song vary, in terms of time devoted to its creation?

      Well it depends on the inspiration.  Sometimes it takes as quick as 20 minutes and other times much, much longer.  Sometimes I have music already to go, and then I add lyrics/melody and voilà, a song!  Other times I have lyrics and depending on how they touch me, I create music to it.  There really is no rhyhme or reason for me, it just kind of happens.

5.     Do you prefer the writing part of the process best, or are you a stage performer at heart?

Greg Wilson

      I think both are very important.  If one is to write a song that a friend or stranger hears and loves, it is the natural progression to perform it on stage.  Right now, there is only Dan and I, so playing the songs to their capability would be lost.  I used to play in a band named Certain Signals, and "we" played all of the music that Dan and I wrote.  It was awesome having a different interpretation(s) from three other members, rather than just Dan and I agreeing on what is good and what is not.  Dan and I have an uncanny knack for loving the same type(s) of music, so I trust his judgment when it comes to any disagreement about certain parts of any song we write.  That said, I would love to put a band together and perform all the songs we have in our "catalog," but I am happy creating and recording with Dan, and I do all of the instruments - it makes me feel like I'm Paul McCartney.

6.     “When August Becomes a Whisper” – What first attracted you to this poem, and what made you want to use the words as lyrics?

      For me when I read it on Facebook, it spoke to me.  To be honest not so much for Dan.  He thought it would be a tremendous challenge, but I thought the imagery would be great to turn into a song.  I had no idea how difficult it would be to phrase the lyrics inside the melody, as the poem doesn't have the same "meter" as most song lyrics have, but in the end we figured it out, just like any other song he and I have written.

7.     When you saw that it was a free verse poem, did this challenge deter you at first, or was it a conundrum you were excited to tackle?

      In my arrogance, I thought it would be like any other song we have written.  Clearly I was wrong.  We have been, or I have been working on this song for months and early on the music did not fit what I was trying to accomplish, but ultimately it worked out.  To this day, I cannot sing and play this song at the same time.  Well I can, but it would not sound like the recording....phrasing is everything!  Is it a conundrum....? Possibly, but there was much excitement once the melody and music lined up perfectly, a breakthrough moment that made each little part of the song, bass and lead guitar fall into place so easily.  It was hard to imagine the difficulty making this work compared to the moment I told you I needed to make this into a song!

8.     How was writing this song different/similar to other songs you’ve written?

      Fitting the words into the measure.

9.     As a songwriter, do you consider yourself a poet?  (I think all songwriters are poets, by the way.)

      I do.

10. Do you read poetry in your spare time?  If so, who are your favorite poets?  (Either contemporary poets, notable poets from literary history, or both.)

     I am a massive Wordsworth fan.  I try to read something of his everyday.  I  do the usual, Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats and Frost - mostly the classics, but I really enjoy "new" poetry, especially if it has some sort of imagery or metaphorical message/imagery.

11. Would you consider writing music again based on a poem?

      I believe we have already started down that path with "Floating" and "Glass in a Tea Cup".....

(*Big smile on interviewer's face here.)

Greg Wilson

Greg has been playing guitar and writing words to music for as long has he can remember.  He was influenced by some classic rock of his youth, but it wasn't until he heard the Sex Pistols and then The Smiths, U2, R.E.M. and The Cure that he identified his angst through listening to this genre, and he was able to put those feelings to good use by writing lyrics and music.

Daniel Gutwein

Virginia-based percussionist, guitarist and songwriter of Signals, Dan Gutwein, hails originally from northern New Jersey, where he started out as the drummer in the band, Public Outcry.  Later he performed in Virginia with the band Watershed before joining musical forces with Greg Wilson to form Signals.  His musical influences include Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and The Beatles, among others.

*Thank you to Signals for sharing thoughts on the songwriting process and the inspiration that all artists find in the world around them.  
~Cristina M. R. Norcross (

I like ' I Want To Hold Your Hand '. We wrote that together and it's a beautiful melody. We wrote a lot of stuff together, one on one, eyeball to eyeball. Like in ' I Want To Hold Your Hand ,' I remember when we got the chord that made the song. We were in Jane Asher's house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had, 'Oh you-u-u / got that something...' And Paul hits this chord, and I turn to him and say, 'That's it!' I said, 'Do that again!' In those days, we really used to absolutely write like that - both playing into each other's noses.  ~JOHN LENNON


Sunday, September 23, 2012

"When August Becomes a Whisper" ~ It's a poem, no wait, it's also a song!

 Lake Mohawk, NJ

My poem "When August Becomes a Whisper" was first published in August 2012, on the Your Daily Poem site.  I am happy to announce that this poem is now a song too, composed and arranged by the Virginia-based band, SIGNALS.  Songwriters Greg Wilson and Dan Gutwein worked tirelessly to create a musical arrangement and recorded a track with vocals.  

This exclusive song can be heard in full at the ReverbNation site:

Click HERE to listen to: "When August Becomes a Whisper"

Signals is also on Facebook!  Visit the SIGNALS1234 fb page and "like" them to follow their latest news, album launch announcements and upcoming shows.

I wrote this poem in response to a writing prompt at a FREE WRITE session hosted by poet, Anjie Kokan, at the Delafield Arts Center (Delafield, WI).  It was an unexpected gem that day, and I am grateful that YDP chose to publish it.  The poem is inspired by the small, lake community where I grew up, Lake Mohawk (Sparta), New Jersey.  I spent 4 summers as a lifeguard on the beaches of Lake Mohawk and many summers just as a young kid lying on the beach and swimming.  I don't think I realized at the time just how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful oasis.  Lake Mohawk was small and quiet.  You saw the same people over and over again at the post office, the A&P and Danny's Pizza.  Sparta is about an hour and fifteen minutes away from Manhattan, where I spent many Saturdays taking dance lessons at Broadway Dance Center and Madame Darvash's.  I also spent these Saturdays studying classical voice at the Metropolitan Opera House.  My mother can account for hours spent in the car taking me to these lessons.  (Thanks, Mom!)  As I take my own sons to soccer games now, some over an hour away on the week-ends, I realize the sacrifices my parents made for my education, growth and artistic passions.

 Lake Mohawk, NJ

If it weren't for those summers on the beach soaking up sun, glossed up with coconut oil, and if it weren't for those Saturdays being blessed with the best dance and voice teachers in the country, I might not have had the inspiration or the skills of creative expression to write this poem.  It takes interpretation, passion and reflection to move your body the way a choreographer envisions the dance.  It also takes an artistic mind to sing an aria the way the character in that opera would have portrayed it.  It takes more than English lit. courses and creative writing workshops to write a good poem.  You also have to live.  I feel like I've lived 3 lives so far, at age 41.  I look forward to another 6.  Will that make 9 nine lives?  Good.  I have time then to finish some of my artistic chapters and start some new ones too.  Perhaps, more of my poems are meant to become songs?  I hope so.  This was fun and enriching. 

Below is a copy of the original poem:

When August Becomes a Whisper

Feeling her underwater mermaid hair
brush past her shoulders,
she finds the coldest current
and delves deeper into the darkest green waters.

Water skiers skim the vast width of Lake Mohawk,
taking with them flipbook scenes
of gingerbread houses
and beach bathers glowing with coconut oil.

She always preferred the sleepy calm
of Upper Lake Beach –
the circular stone sculpture
that served as a water fountain,
the lone raft she could swim to
and rest on for hours,
examining every flake of white paint
and weather worn groove
from summers of divers.

When the blue-black nights come earlier and earlier,
she savors the mossy green scent of her towel,
the feel of stray grains of butter yellow sand
that cling to leather sandals,
and the sound that August makes
when it becomes a whisper.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2012
(Published on the Your Daily Poem site on August 27, 2012)

Here is the LINK to my poem on Your Daily Poem.

Check back soon!  I plan on publishing a special interview with the musicians of SIGNALS, that you won't want to miss.  How does a song begin?  Where do songwriters find their inspiration?  What was the creative process for writing "When August Becomes a Whisper?" - I'll find out and share all of the details with you!

Peace & poetry

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's Not a Race

It’s not a race.

High school, college, grad school, marriage, kids, career, achievement, happiness … none of it has an expiration date; and yet, we are all rushing through our lives as if there is a deadline.  Well, there is the ultimate deadline ~ death, but I still don’t think we need to rush.  Where is my delete button?  Maybe I need to start again.  The days are as long as they are wide.  We need to savor every moment before the fading of sun each day.

The only true battle we have in life is with ourselves.

No one else is keeping track of our perceived failures and successes.  We all have a need to do well though.  It starts in kindergarten with gold stars and having our mothers say, “good job!”  Who doesn’t like positive reinforcement?  We all appreciate recognition for a job well done.   Enjoying the process and the path is key though.  How can we truly enjoy winning 1st place,  getting the job promotion, signing the publishing contract, finishing the 5K race, without enjoying the road we took to get there?

You aren’t really flying unless you are free.  You won’t be truly free until you give yourself permission.

This statement says it all.  Feeling complete, feeling successful, feeling at peace ~ all of these things are up to you.  YOU have the ultimate power to experience true happiness and self-acceptance.  Give yourself permission to be happy.

Now breathe and start your day knowing that you are loved … 

You Are Loved

You are exquisitely made.
With a splash of deep purple at the edges,
and a vibrant center –
you shine.

Like the many layered hues
of a rhododendron
with blushing petals,
you have innate gifts –
both seen and unseen.

The wind whistles a melody,
encouraging the dance of galaxies.
In unison, all of nature
follows the same, beautifully orchestrated score,
and we float forward together.

In another time
you see the outline of this day
in all of its divinity.
You smile a perfect smile,
knowing that –
you are loved.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2008

And you are free ...