A Few Extra Days

Filed in L.A. (Sept 2006), Music, Music: My Songs, TravelTags: , ,

It was Peisha's idea. Almost from the beginning of our time together, Peisha strongly recommended that I have a 'product' to take home with me. She meant that I should record a couple of songs, if only to show the folks at home just how much I had improved.

I wasn't totally sold on the idea at first. It was the potential financial cost of doing the recordings that kept me from committing to the idea, but as time went on, as my voice continued to improve, and as I discovered more and more songs that I loved, I grew more attracted to the idea. After three weeks of being with Peisha, I made the decision to record the songs. It's a decision that I'll never regret, and I'll forever be grateful to Peisha for her encouragement and insistence that I do the recordings.

Peisha knows people. That shouldn't come as a surprise. She has been in the music community for many years, and she's a highly respected member. Many of the people that she knows are very talented, and so I could only be optimistic when she chose someone to record my voice and arrange the music. His name was Chris Hardin.

Chris is probably as busy as Peisha. Most exceptionally talented people tend to be busy most of the time. They're always in demand. Chris' schedule was tight but we found a slot of time that we could spend with him after one of my lessons with Peisha. Unfortunately, half way through my lesson with Peisha, it was quite obvious that I was far too tired to go to a recording studio. Without questioning me in any way, and quite aware of the reality of the situation, Peisha called Chris and we were fortunately able to organise another session time.

Remember how I said that those few extra days that I stayed in L.A. turned out to be invaluable? Now you know why.

Our first session with Chris was on Monday, the day after I had originally planned to leave L.A. Monday was a great time slot because it allowed me to rest my voice over the weekend. I did a little warmup with Peisha at her studio and we then drove over to Chris' home studio.

On the evening of Monday the 20th of October, we recorded my first song: "This is the Moment". We recorded this song first because we knew it was going to be the hardest vocally. By the time I had sung through it four or five times in Chris' studio, I was worn out. It's a very tough song to sing with lots of high sustained notes, but, it turned out fine.

In the studio, Chris recorded a very basic piano background while following the sheet music. I then recorded my voice to that background.

On Tuesday, Peisha and I went back and recorded two more songs: "For Once in My Life" and another that I'll keep as a surprise for you. With "For Once in My Life", Chris again recorded a basic piano background to which I recorded my voice. He added many of the other instruments while we were there. It was incredible to watch him work. His musical talent is amazing. And I think he was really enjoying himself arranging that song. He was obviously having fun with it which made it fun for us too.

The third song was a little different. I recorded my voice first, roughly, without music, so that Chris could hear it and analyse the chords. That's because I didn't have any sheet music for the song, and I didn't want him to hear the original so that he would have to create something new. Chris then listened to my voice recording and in real time wrote down the chords on a sheet of lyrics that I had printed for him. In real time! The man is astonishing. What else can I say? Chris then used the chords to play a basic piano background for me to which I then recorded the final voice.

Over the next week, Chris added instruments and finalised the arrangements for each the songs.

…    …    …

One week after returning to Hong Kong, I received mp3 versions of the songs in my email. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I have now listened to them so many times that I've lost count. My wife said that the songs were simply 「百聽不厭」. They're understandably already on her iPod.

Peisha was so right in insisting that I record the songs. Without the songs, I might have gradually over time forgotten what I had learnt in L.A., but the songs have shown me what I can do and they've given me renewed confidence and enthusiasm, something I desperately needed. These songs are without doubt one of the many miracles in my life.

Now it's your turn. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. Links to the three songs are listed below. The last song is a surprise. It's also one of my all-time favourites. Even Peisha and Chris loved it. Once you've heard the song, you'll understand why that's so special.

Have fun.

All songs:
Sung by Gregory Charles Rivers 河國榮
Arranged by Chris Hardin of Chris Hardin Entertainment
Directed by Peisha McPhee

Song 1: This is the Moment from the stage musical Jekyl and Hyde, written by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn.

Song 2: For Once in My Life written by Stevie Wonder

Song 3: Should I? (a surprise ;-)

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38 Responses to “A Few Extra Days”
  1. Richard Lai says:

    You have a very nice pop/stage-musical voice. Either your teacher was very good, or you're a very good student, or both! I'm also very impressed by the arrangement of "Should I?". Thumbs up for Chris!

    It's a shame that musicals are not as big as I wish it would be in Hong Kong. I wanted to see "The Phantom of the Opera" over the summer but the tickets were way over-priced! (well, luckily I study in London so I can watch it here instead) Are you planning to do any musicals in the near future?

    How about a few Frank Sinatra's? I want to hear you sing "I've Got You Under My Skin" in your style. ;)

    PS: is it just me or do the 3 MP3 track have a high-pitch hissing noise? I don't hear that in my own MP3 tracks so it can't be my speakers.

  2. Frankie In USA says:

    It's astonishing how much you've improved... I'm very impressed, envious actually haha, keep up the good work!!!! I agree with Richard, I think your vocal style suits Frank Sinatra style of songs... give it a shot :P

    Frankie

  3. Jocelyn says:

    Love it....wow. Those lessons really helped and of course with your practicing. My fav. has to be the third song hehe. Loved it so much, maybe it was the song itself, or the words but it suits your voice. I can't wait to hear more...keep it up!!!

    Jocelyn

  4. yivon says:

    I love the 3rd song too!
    You are a great singer..Nicevoice! =)
    Cheers!

  5. May says:

    oh i definitely love your version of For Once in My Life!!! your voice has certainly improved and it sounds wonderful. keep it goin', bud!

  6. Ting says:

    Oh, I am really surprise by the song "should I"! I smile when listening these song, so different from the screen that
    this blog show the real life of河國榮.

  7. Mark says:

    Yan can cook,
    You can sing,
    Your singing talents have finally been unearthed,
    Congratulations!!!

  8. Jack says:

    I prefer to hear you sing in Cantonese. I was quite disappointed.

  9. Mark says:

    Cantonese tones are far more difficult to master than Putonghua. Few non-Chinese could sing or speak as local as Kiu-po-po unless you start learning the dialect at a very young age!

  10. Jack says:

    Mark, You don't think Gregory has mastered Cantonese? C'mon, Gregory has been speaking Cantonese for 20 years, I'm sure he speaks and sings it much better than Mandarin. Why would someone be preachign the difficulty of tones in Cantonese when the guy has spoken Cantonese nearly more than 1/2 his life. I think Gregory sang like a pro here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4b9ZUn46NU

  11. Karen says:

    You did a great job ! The songs are wonderful! Keep on the good work!

  12. Clement says:

    Hey, Greg!

    My first comment.

    I am a BIG musical fan and I also have vocal training for several years. I think you will go to Broadway eventually, but in my humble opinion, you should focus more on training sustain and breath control. However, your performance amazed me still! You obviously a Frank Wildhorn fan, but let me introduce you another composer/lyricist called Stephen Sondheim. He's actually the poet laureate on Broadway. You may heard his "Send in the Clowns" from "A Little Night Music" but his other works are also superb, especially his lyrics which he always emphasize. I am always a big fan of his work.

    Keep up your effort, and I know you'll suceed in near future.

    Clement from HK (but now in US)

    P.S. I am always a fan of you since I was little watching your shows on TV. Hate myself of missing your "Perfume" last year!:P

  13. 蝦米 says:

    我喜歡第三首歌, 因為我不大懂得欣賞BLUE SONG, 不知道我說得對不對, 至於你唱得好不好, 這個我不敢說甚麼, 因為我都不懂, 總知你 ENJOY 唱, 我就ENJOY 聽啦!

  14. Sherman says:

    Hi榮哥, excellent and wonderful for all three songs. I recently attracted by your Blog which I receive an notice whenever you post any new article. Keep it up.

  15. Brian says:

    Hi 河國榮,
    This is my first time visiting your gorgeous blog (after all these years watching you on various TVB series ^^). To be honest, I always thought you are British by descent and I'm surprised to learn that you are an Aussie. haha, I hope you will forgive my ignorance.
    Among the 3 songs, I think "For Once in My Life" is the best. Compare to most HK artists, your mandarin song "Should I" is expectionally good. It would be nice if you can reach a higher pitch in the song "This is the Moment." They are all good songs and you should keep up the good work!
    I like the way you organize and record your feeling and observation in this semi-journal blog. Keep up the good work, and good luck with your vocal practice!

  16. Richard Lai says:

    Just to add to Clement's list of Sondheim's work: "Love, I Hear" from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" is one of my favourite musical songs. "Lovely" from the same play is also a great duet song (the female part goes up quite high at the end!).

    This was our school production last Christmas. I happened to be one of the Proteans/Roman soldiers! Me and my friend Adam had to do a cartwheel on the stage! Good old times... :D

  17. Pam says:

    hi Greg, keep up the good work!
    =)

  18. Clement says:

    Acutally, I didn't do the list, but this is a really good suggestion:

    Sunday in the Park with George:
    Sunday in the Park with George (MUST LISTEN!)
    Putting It Together
    Finishing the Hat (MUST LISTEN!)
    Beautiful (MUST LISTEN!)
    Sunday (MUST LISTEN!)
    Colour and Light
    Move On (MUST LISTEN!)

    Actually, you should listen to all the songs in this musical!

    Dick Tracy:
    More
    Losing My Mind
    Sooner Or Later (OSCAR WINNING SONG! MUST LISTEN!)

    Funny Thing:
    Lovely
    Everybody Ought to have a Maid
    Comedy Tonight

    Merrily We Roll Along:
    Old Friends (MUST LISTEN!)
    Good Thing Going
    Opening Doors
    Not A Day Goes By (MUST LISTEN!)

    Company:
    Company
    Not Going Married Today
    Marry Me A Little
    Side By Side
    Being Alive (MUST LISTEN!)

    Sweeney Todd:
    Ballad of Sweeney Todd
    Epiphany
    Worst Pies in London
    Johanna (MUST LISTEN!)

    Follies:
    Beautiful Girls (MUST LISTEN!)
    Buddy's Blues
    Broadway Baby (MUST LISTEN!)

    Into the Woods:
    Prologue: Into the Woods (MUST LISTEN!)
    Hello Little Girl
    Giants in the Sky (MUST LISTEN!)
    Agany (MUST LISTEN!)
    Moments in the Woods
    No One is Alone (MUST LISTEN)
    Finale: Children Will Listen (MUST LISTEN!)

    Passion:
    Happiness (MUST LISTEN!)
    Trio
    No One Has Ever Loved Me

    The Frogs (though mostly in chorus):
    Invocation and Instructions to the Audience
    I Love to Travel
    The Frogs
    Hymn to Dionysos (MUST LISTEN!)
    It's Only a Play (MUST LISTEN!)

    Anyone Can Whistle:
    Anyone Can Whistle
    There Won't Be Trumpets
    See What It Gets You (MUST LISTEN!)

    Assassins:
    Everybody's Got the Right to Be Happy (MUST LISTEN!)
    The Ballad of Czolgosz
    Unworthy of Your Love
    The Ballad of Guiteau
    Another National Anthem (MUST LISTEN!)

    A Little Night Music:
    Every Day A Little Death (MUST LISTEN!)
    Remember?
    In Praise of Women (MUST LISTEN!)
    Send In the Clowns

  19. Clement says:

    Sorry but need to add some more:

    Sweeney Todd:
    Not While I'm Around (MUST LISTEN!)
    God That's Good
    A Little Priest (MUST LISTEN!)
    Pretty Women (MUST LISTEN!)
    By the Sea

    Assassins:
    Something Just Broke (MUST LISTEN!)

  20. Lee says:

    Oh, you love jazz?
    I love your third songs, it's great.

  21. Steve says:

    你好。

    昨晚零晨,在重播的麗的電視劇集《賽金花》裡(好像是第十三集),看見你早期的演出。

    你飾演八國聯軍的一個士兵,還跟主角說了幾句對白。

    原來已經過了這麼多年。

  22. Richard Lai says:

    If only life is not that busy, Clement! ;)

  23. Clement says:

    Well, I have used 3 years to complete the list and I still haven't listen Saturday Night and all songs from Merrily We Roll Along. So... yes... slow progress makes perfect! :)

  24. firthette says:

    All three songs are really great!! seriously i think they are 百(+++)聽不厭 ;)
    I love the surprise one at the end :) Not that I didn't like the other ones!!
    Keep up the great work!!

    獄焰驚情...wow..working with many musical people like Louisa So and Sunny Chan...hope you guys work on a musical together in the future :)

  25. Fanny says:

    I was really excited when I saw that you're latest post had not one but three songs that you sang. I was even more excited when I saw that one of them was "This Is The Moment", it had been a favorite of mine when I was a kid. You were really good in all three and I was very surprised for the last one. I think its so cool that you got to work with Katharine McPhee's mom. Katharine was really good, I thought she should've won instead of Taylor Hicks. Anyways, you did really well. Keep up the good work.

  26. Ed says:

    I have to say I was relly amazed by your vocal ability. Personally, I prefer the mandarin song...since I prefer pop song. 'This is the moment' is also great, but the way you sing made it soung more like singing in play. I was also impressed by your madarin, maybe you can get invloved in some other produciton in china, if u have not alredy done so. I am looking forward to find more of your production online, and hopefully one day will be able to come and see a play or even a concert to listen to you singing in live. All the best!

  27. Christina says:

    Seems everyone has the same feeling: You've got the stage-musical voice! Hope I can see you on stage soon~

  28. Daidai says:

    Greg,

    I admire your effort in being a full bloomed artist. You sing better than most of the new young artists these days. My only comment is the pronounciation in "Should I", it is not clear too me. I know you will make it one day. People will appreciate your effort.

    Keep up and Good Luck!

  29. Lorna says:

    Hi Greg

    I revisited your website a few months after my first website and was delighted to find the recordings of some new songs. I think you could really make it in London or Hollywood with your acting and singing skills. But, if you leave HK, we wouldn't be able to find another Cantonese-speaking Gwailo who can actually act. By the way, any chance of you doing a Beatles song in your unique style? I'm a big Beatles fan.

    Best wishes
    Lorna

  30. Lorna says:

    I mean "after my first visit" in my last comment. Sorry for my careless mistake.

  31. There was a girl says:

    Those songs were awesome...My favourite one is This is the memont. It is one of my all time favourite songs :) Warmest greetings

  32. ReM!X仔 says:

    Excellent job Mr. Rivers and I feel suprise on the last song 該不該 Should I?

    I think if you can produce and sing in Cantonese would be much better, because you learn Cantonese longer than Mandarin.

  33. Benny yuen says:

    great song , but not for hong kong market , u know ... want to be s singer in hong kong , u don't need to good in singing

  34. ReM!X仔 says:

    Mr. Rivers: I think someone want to follow your dreams. His name is Kemis and I have his mv. Hope you can enjoy and give some advice on him as well.

    His MVs:
    http://www.karazen.com/kemis.php

    His MySpace Blog:
    http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=80298870

  35. Ken says:

    This is the moment really sings for you.
    Probably better than the original.

    Well done Greg I am sure a lot of the guys
    out there will be proud of you and what you
    have done. Keep it up and you will find what
    you deserve.

  36. Sandy says:

    love the song. You are one versatile artist.
    keep rocking!!
    Big Love to you. :D

  37. Sandy says:

    Though I dont really know mandarin,, but the song 'should I' really moved me.
    Its one sad song...

  38. Fiona says:

    Greg - you are such an all rounder artists and I really admire your persistence and willingness to learn. I used to work with your wife at the Jewelry Manufacturing Company and please sent my regards to her. By the way, where did you learn your putonghua? Keep up the good work.