Friday, 23 February 2018

Celebrating 40 Years of Songwriting Day 2

Flirting with Cliche from Snow Tracks :- Welsh Icons Album of the Year

This is the 2nd day of my Celebration- 40 Years of Songwriting. Today, I am sharing with you a track from my Snow Tracks Album released in 2011. 

It was Editor's Choice Album of the Year with Welsh Icons and launched at The National Botanic Garden of Wales.

Up to this point, I had been making Digital Stories to go with songs but Jeff had bought me a little video camera. I downloaded movie maker and had a go at making a moving film. 

My little sister was staying over with me and so she became the dancer in the piece, my kitchen the backdrop. 

It feels quite apt that my little sister and I should make this, my first film, together, being that she has sat on the end of my bed since she was a little one, listening to my songs. 

When I was a grumpy teenager humming and strumming in the bedroom, she would sit outside my door until I let her in. And ever since, every time I write a song or a story or a poem, I call her up and she listens on the telephone. She is my first critique. Comments range from complete silence, to not sure about that one to yep, that's the one ... 

If you would like to purchase the Snow Track Album it is now available at BANDCAMP as a download for £5.00. Here's the link ... 

Thursday, 22 February 2018

40 years of Songwriting

Song Share: 'Mad Man' Written & Performed by Cheryl Beer  for The Dragon Tree.

I wrote my first song when I was 13 years old and it dawned on me today that this year, I will have been writing songs for 40 years. 

I have had a blessed life meeting amazing people and travelling all over the world to write and sing songs.

What started as a something to cheer the family at Christmas, became a lifetime of songwriting.

I have performed in just about every acoustic music venue in the UK, countless festivals, so many I have lost track and throughout the live music scene in Europe. 

I have toured India and was a special guest at the opening of Zimbabwe Women's Music Academy. I have given talks, won awards and played alongside people that were my idols.

But when I went deaf in 2016, I gave up all hope of continuing to live as a songwriter. It was too painful. The tinnitus and hyperacusis made live music untenable ... although I continued to write songs for myself to help me through the dark times, I gave up on my dream ... until this week, when something major shifted inside me. 

It is as if the tectonic plates of my being have shifted back into place, allowing all the pennies to drop. I am a Songwriter.

Perhaps because a dear friend has recently passed away, teaching me how precious life is, or perhaps because of a conversation I had with another dear friend, who is also a songwriter ... there is no need for me to know why the time feels right, just that it does.

All I know is that I am filled with this thought ...

Why shouldn't a 53 year old deaf woman with tinnitus and hyperacusis live her dream? 

What is stopping me? 

And off course, the answer is ... ME! 

And with this realisation, I picked up my guitar and wrote a song ... and then another one and oh my word, it felt so good. It felt like coming home, like being mended. 

Off course, I can't sing like I did because I can't hear myself very well, and the guitar is distorting in my head as I play it ...  but who cares! Somehow, I'll find a way to overcome these little obstacles.

In gratitude and to celebrate 40 years of songwriting joy, I am going to share my back catalogue here at my blog, posting songs from my Youtube & Bandcamp  clips. Today's Youtube Clip is 'Mad Man' written as part of a film I made called The Dragon Tree, funded by The Arts Council of Wales. (It's at the top of the page.)

It feels so good to be falling back in love with writing new songs ... I'm not sure where that might lead. Best set the intention and let the Universe work her magic, trusting that she will bring the right people into my world to make it it so.

If you would like, you can purchase tracks from my back catalogue here ... 

The enduring love of friendship

It's been a difficult couple of weeks. One of my closest friends has passed away. I loved her so dearly. She was one of the only people in my life who could tell me the truth, just like it is, in such a way that it would make me smile.There was never any malice or judgement in her observations, just love and what's more, she was always right.

We said goodbye to her this week at her funeral,  a very lovely send off. Off course it would be because, bless her, she had written a list for the vicar. Her casket was made with wicker and it wouldn't have surprised me if she had made it herself because she was gifted in all that she turned her hand to, playing harp, spinning, weaving, sewing... and brilliant in a very unassuming way.

Me: This is lovely wool, where did you get it?
Her: Oh, I spun it myself.

Me: Wow, I love this silk paper
Her: Oh yes, I made it myself

And always sharing her gift by teaching others. She was a fine harpist but more than that, she wanted to preserve the harp, particularly here in West Wales and so she set up the Welsh branch of Clarsach harp society. In fact, that's how I met her. I was running Celtic Womenfest for the National Botanic Garden of Wales in the Great Glasshouse and she was teaching harp over in the Gallery. We hit it off immediately and have been great friends ever since.

She taught so many of us how to play harp, touring all over Europe. Funny thing is, she was such a tiny little person that you could barely see her behind her harp, but you could hear her and feel all of her heart in her strings. In the video above, we are playing in Lower Normandy a piece entitled The Tethered Fairyring which I wrote for ukulele. She was passionate about preserving music and convinced me that we should notate the piece for future generations, which she kindly did for me. We had such a wonderful time working on it together that we took it to France to launch it, staying at an Artist's Retreat.

This last year as she battled with her health, we started less demanding adventures, spinning wool together, sewing little books together, enthusing over old button tins and generally putting the world to rights over a cuppa.

Although we were close, we never really talked about it, but the last time I visited her, the day before she took a turn for the worse, she stood on the doorstep of her home as I was leaving and I turned back as I walked up the drive ... 'I love you' I called to her ... 'and I love you' she said. We smiled and waved our goodbyes. It was the first time we had told each other, neither of us knowing that it would be the last thing we said. 

I share this personal story with you so that you feel inspired to tell those you love, what they mean to you. We none of us know when it will be our time, only that one day, it will be.

Susan Berry, thank you with all my heart for being my friend. Off course, darling, dying doesn't let you off the hook ... you are still  my friend and I will, no doubt, talk with you often and off course, love you forever xxx 

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

How the chakra can help deaf singers to pitch

I am sharing this today as it may help other singers who, like me, find that they are now deaf in their upper vocal range.

For me, having lost the ability to pitch in the upper range is exacerbated by my tinnitus and hyperacusis. Because of these conditions associated with my hearing loss, I can not hear my own voice in my head and find myself unable to locate specific notes and so, after a career that started when I was 5 years old, I felt forced to stop singing professionally. 

It was once I had stopped singing that I realised that my voice was so much more than an instrument for work. It is part of me, it is in my every fibre, an expression of self. My voice singing has been my friend in times of grief and my companion in times of joy. Frankly, without it, I have felt bereft. 

Once I had been issued with two hearing aids by the NHS in December 2017, I felt brave enough to start playing the guitar and writing songs again. 

One morning during practice, I decided to give my upper ranges a blast, even though I couldn't pitch there properly. To my surprise, I found that when I went to the note I was looking for, I could feel my voice vibrating at the sides of my nose and through the sinuses, just below my eyes. The sinuses are small air filled cavities behind the cheekbones and forehead (see diagram above).  

With this new information, I began experimenting and deliberately noticing where my body held tension and release for certain notes and tones.

So far, I have found that I can pitch by recognising these vibrations in my face and head. This has led me to start experimenting with other parts of my body with equally surprising results.

By releasing my stomach and relaxing the muscles of the solar plexus and sacral areas, this helps me levitate my voice upwards into my head cavity, where I can then use the vibrations in the sinuses to find pitch. 

In short, whilst singing, I am releasing the sacral and solar plexsis chakra,  and then using awareness of the third eye and crown chakra to maximise vibrational awareness of my voice in the cranial area, thus enabling me to find and hold the pitch that I can no longer judge just by using my ears.

It feels important to share my findings with you. It is early days but I am stepping into a vocal practice to explore and expand my research. I'll keep you posted with results. For now, I am joyous to be able to 'hear' my voice again.

Friday, 26 January 2018

How to teach an old dog, new tricks

It's been a tricky week here. Poor little Maisy has hurt her leg and the vet had to do X-rays. We're to keep her completely still for 2 weeks. Have you tried to keep a King Charles Spaniel still?

So, I have to stay with her, which is actually very lovely, but I wondered what could I do with my time whilst I am at home with her? 

I decided to write a long list of all the things I wished I could in terms of graphic design. I already make websites and am using these skills to reinvent and re-brand my new and exciting creative venture. However, there are things I wished I could do that I thought were beyond me BUT I was wrong!

Having a long list and time on my hands, I went on youtube and found all the best tutorials for the things I yearned to learn. 

I pieced together a 2 day course for myself. As you can guess, one of the things I wanted to learn was how to make inkblot pictures like the one I have designed at the top of this blog ... oh I am feeling really rather chuffed with myself. Off course, now I need to learn how to make transparent backgrounds so that I have the option of the image without the background. 

So, I am compiling a new list for next week, because now that I have enabled myself to be my own teacher, I reckon I can fly beyond skies the limit ...

What would you like to teach yourself?

Reinvention: Stepping into the Sunlight

For the last 14 months, I have been coming to terms with hearing loss, tinnitus and hyperacusis.

My intention for 2018, to open up my heart in deep gratitude & acceptance, includes the acknowledgement that my relationship to live music and performance, which has been my lifelong passion and career, has to now change.  I believed that this meant that I would exclude performance from my life but now, I realise that if I am open to finding a new way, then that is precisely what will present itself. 

In many ways, it is a wonderful opportunity to completely reinvent, rebirth and make a new. How utterly exciting. I might be deaf, but I hear the call of my soul now more clearly than ever before in my entire life.

I am finding myself in the gloriously seductive, creatively obsessed and precisely focused state of creating a distilled and pure pathway, leading directly to the next phase of my life. 

Focusing my soul-fired desires into creating a strong, yet flexible  framework that enables me to continue to heal myself through my passions, whilst helping those that are reaching out from the dark place that I was in, so that we can step together into the sunlight ... 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Button Up Your Memories: Dementia Friendly Books

For Christmas, I had 4 commissions for my Heartfelt Books , 2 of which touched me deeply, and have informed a new way of working. 

One client commissioned a Heartfelt book for the funeral of her niece. I found this very touching. I asked her questions and sent the poem back and for with her, until she was happy, using materials in her niece's favourite colours ... and then I was contacted by a young woman who asked if I could make a little book for her Grandmother, to help her with her memory, as her dementia meant that she was starting to become confused.

It just so happens that at the time, I was in R&D, creating a poetry book about the buttons in my late Mother in law's old tin and how each button had belonged to a different member of her family. I showed the book to the client and she asked me to make one for her. 

Only this time, I used buttons from her Grandma's tin and the poem story inside was about her family.

I am now working on a Collection of Heartfelt books to trial with the listeners and peer volunteer storytellers at Sound Memories Dementia Friendly Radio.