Cheryl Beer

Cheryl Beer
Award Winning Creative Director making social change through the mediums of sound, story & mantra

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Two Mothers: 40 Years of Songwriting

This is quite an early song of mine written in my twenties for two girlfriends who fell in love and found a way to have a beautiful baby boy. Off course, he is all grown up now. 

The track is on my Beautiful Bearded Lady Album. I think this was my first solo album on CD format.

It's very beautiful to look back over my 40 years of Songwriting. When I started, we didn't have the technology we have today. No computers at all and lucky to have a cassette player. I think I will go in the loft and see if I can dig out one of my first cassette releases. There were 2 cassettes with a band called Clouds Over Egypt - I married the guitarist and we are still together ... and then my first solo cassette was called Unplugged and Personal ... I seem to remember there being a song on there that I really liked, called Paper Handkerchiefs - about an amazing tree in Brecon ... yes, I'll have a look for it. Off course, if someone out there has a copy of it and could send it to me digitally, that would be fab. 

I've put my favourite songs on Bandcamp ... here's the link ... 

And here's a link to my website ... 

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The Joy of Human Kindness

Singer/Songwriter Miranda Betts

I am so excited. One of the hardest things since developing Hyperacusis has been that I am unable to take part or listen to live music. 

After a lifetime of living through music, this is sometimes hard to swallow, though I am building ways back to a musical life. 

It's not so much  the performance that is a problem but the audience response ... clapping, laughing, or people tapping feet on the floor  ... all these can set my hyperacusis raging, which renders me with sound distortion for days, to the point where I can not even tolerate my own voice,

Sometimes, when I have had the courage, I ask friends if they will sing for me. It feels like a really odd request because we just don't ask our friends to sit and sing for us. I'm not sure why because frankly, it's a marvellous idea. As children, my Mother would sing for us, my Grandmother sang for us. I would sing for them ... we were a singing house.

And then last week, I told my dear friend Miranda Betts, a Singer/Songwriter who pens the most beautiful songs, how awkward I felt asking and she very kindly offered to pop round and sing for me. And tomorrow lunchtime is the day that she is coming.

I wonder if I might be able to sing with her. Oh my days, the very thought of hearing Miranda sing and being able to join in, is making every cell of my body shine.

Such joy in human kindness. Thankyou Miranda.

The Autumn of my Life: 40 Years of Song

Today's Song Share is a sketch from a Community Theatre Production called Valley Girl. I was commissioned as the Songwriting Consultant to visit over 800 women and girls throughout the South Wales Valleys, collecting their views of themselves and their lives' as 'Valley's Girls'. 

Rehearsals of Carmen Jones of Trevethin

From the conversations I had with the community, I penned and sketch-recorded 32 songs which were adapted by the outstanding and well respected Director, Chris Durnall from Company of Sirens. He created 4 incredible productions across the Heads of the Valley themed around the seasons.

I was invited to come and perform some of the songs, 'Autumn of my Life' being one of the  tracks in the production at the White Rose Centre  in Tredegar. The song is written with a group of Dinner Ladies talking about what is important to them and the lyrics are direct text from teh conversation. I call this method of working Ethnographic Poetics -  in that my songs become the conduit for the cultural context of those with I am working with.

'The Festival of 4' as it was known was the brain child of my visionary friend Kate Strudwick, Director at at Head4Arts. I remember sitting in her posh cottage chatting about it before it was even birthed as a fully formed idea in her mind.

Kate pulled together a team of exceptional people. I have stayed connected and worked since with  Gina Roberts who headed up Dance and Fiona Winter, also leading on Dance, has become one of my dearest confidantes and heart friends.

Both Chris and Kate will never know the immense impact they had on how I went onto work with the community as a result of being involved in the Festival of Four. It changed my view of what was possible ... and I will be forever grateful to them for sharing their expertise and experience.

From this post, I went onto become the Artistic Director of a huge Community Production  'Carmen Jones of Trevethin' and the Creative Director of Celtic Womenfest,  as well as the Children's Storytelling Trail for the National Botanic Garden of Wales. 

To hear more songs from my 40 years of Songwriting, why not pop over to my Bandcamp Shop.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Faith Healer : 40 Years of Songwriting

Here's another favourite of mine from my Award Winning Album 'Just Another Judas' which was a Album of the Month and set me off on a tour of the UK for 18 months with the great Arthur Brown (God of Hellfire) and the late Tim Rose who was part of the The Big Three with Mama Cass in the 60's and wrote for the Grateful Dead in the 70's. We had great fun on that Rose Brown Beer Tour.

Jeff, my life partner is playing with me on this track. I'm on vocals and rhythm guitar, he's playing acoustic lead and bass and our chum Murph is playing Dmbek. Aw such good fun times.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Handpan Heaven

We went on a magical adventure yesterday.

It started a month back at the West Wales Sound Healing Centre. Jenni Chapter who owns the Centre with Ali, is a Sound Healer and she very kindly allowed me to play her new handpan.

I have tried handpans before and they have played absolute havoc with my tinnitus and hyperacusis, distorting and actually at times, being painful ... but this handpan of Jenni's, was very different.

It was mellow in tone and seemed to softly caress my ears. There was nothing harsh about even the higher tones and no distortion in my hearing range. My hearing aids coped really well with it.

Jenni told me about Dan at Tala Handpans, who created her drum for her, so I contacted him ...  and yesterday, we pootled down to Frome, where he is based.

I love that Dan is a young man with a passion. Him and his wife have converted the garage into a state of the art studio, where Dan has designed new equipment to ease the making process of handpans. He has sunk his life savings into it.

His passion began many years ago when he fell in love with the instrument. He ordered one and had to wait 2 years for it to be made, which is very common with handpans, and when it arrived, it was not in the key he had wanted. But it was so hard to get hold of a handpan that he accepted it anyway. However, rather than order another one and wait another 2 years, this fuelled his desire to learn how to build handpans himself. It has been a labour of love. 

He has only been building for 3 years and I feel very blessed indeed to find him at this early stage of his career because I have absolutely no doubt that once the world knows where he is and what he can do, he will be in great demand.

I went to his home and he showed me 3 of the handpans that he had created and were ready for sale. This is his dream. To give people a choice of handpans where they can come and connect with the instrument, rather wait for ages and take pot luck.

What was great about this for me in particular,  is that I was able to try them out and see which ones worked best with my hearing conditions. 

For instance, there was one that I knew immediately was not right for me. Imagine if I had gone down the usual route, ordered, waited 2 years and ended up with a handpan my hearing conditions couldn't tolerate. I just would never have taken that risk.

Off course, because Dan is in the process of building a reputation, his prices are currently very reasonable but I can see this changing very soon. My advice is contact him now, before the world finds him.

So, thanks Dan, for sharing your gift with us. 

When I told Dan that I thought pretty soon, everyone will want a Tala Handpan, he rather humbly chuckled and said that he's not very keen on marketing and that it feels like 'Reaching for the Moon.' It really touched me when he said this. 

Yes, living our creative dreams can truly feel as if we are reaching for the moon, but thankfully, I have a strange feeling, that the moon is also reaching for us and when we step fully into what we are meant to be, then all is as it should be.

Party Dress: 40 years of Songwriting

Everyone needs a Party Dress when there's a celebration and what better excuse to celebrate than 40 years of Songwriting, which is how long I have been writing songs, yet in many ways, it feels like only 40 heartbeats ago that I penned my first song.

This track, Party Dress is taken from my Award Winning Little Fish Album which was HMV album of the Month and saw me touring stores across the UK. 

Playing saxophone and flute with me is Nik Turner from Hawkwind fame. A fine musician who has gone on to make incredible music in his own right.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

somakAnta : 40 Years of Songwriting

After 40 years of songwriting, as you can imagine, I have experimented with all kinds of music. 

Whilst I was in India touring in my thirties, I absolutely fell in love with Sanskrit mantra. 

The sanskrit word somaKanta means 'Beloved of the Moon' or 'Moon Beloved'. I recorded the vocals for the track at midnight, chanting in the light of the moon.

somAkanta from my album 'The Mantra Experiments'. I am performing with the lovely Shey Edlington and her magnificent handpan. 

The Mantra Experiments is available as a download at BANDCAMP. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did making it.

Recorded by my rock, Jeff at our home studio in West Wales.

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.