Peisha McPhee

Posts filed under Peisha McPhee

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 ;-)

A New Journey: The Beginning

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

My singing has always been important to me. Often, music is a precious companion, the one thing that will always be there no matter where I am or what I'm doing. Over the years, I've tried to improve my singing whenever possible. Through multiple unintentional spans of time when I didn't sing at all followed by periods of re-training and learning, I was able to forget some of my bad habits and learn better technique. In July of 2006, I was still not at the place I desired to be and hungered for further improvement. I needed a teacher.

My previous teacher had taught me well but you can only learn so much from one teacher and I needed more. I needed someone who could take me to the next level. Finding a teacher is always a gamble. You can never know until after you've begun working with them whether or not they'll be good for you but if you don't gamble, you'll always lose. I had to try.

In the months leading up to July, I had been watching episodes of the American Idol 2005/6 singing competition. The competitors were all exceptional performers. One of the competitors in particular really impressed me. Her name was Katharine, Katharine McPhee. While watching the show, I learnt that Katharine's mother Peisha was a vocal coach (i.e., a singing teacher). A little research on the internet revealed that Peisha McPhee was also an accomplished and respected cabaret singer.

People have asked me how to know if a teacher is good. I would first suggest that you observe the teacher's students. If the students perform well, that's a good sign. If the students have traits and abilities that you yourself admire and would like to develop, then that's an even better sign. This was very true in my case. Katharine was amazing. More than one of her performances gave me goose bumps. She was awesome and I wanted some of what she had if even only a small piece. Peisha therefore became a prime candidate in my search for a new teacher. In fact, she became my only candidate.

Studying in the U.S.A. with a vocal coach as celebrated as Peisha would be a dream for me, but an expensive one. There would be the air plane ticket, the motel accommodation, food and of course the tutor fees. It wasn't a decision that I could make lightly or quickly and so I began to ponder the decision, weighing the costs and the potential gains.

A week later while pondering the decision to study with Peisha, I received a phone call from someone in Hong Kong, an assistant to a local stage director. He was planning to put on an English musical stage play here in Hong Kong next year, and he wanted me to star in it! To me, that was magical, the chance to act and sing on stage. But it was more than that. It was divine affirmation that I should go to the U.S.A. and study with Peisha; assuming that she would accept me.

Now nearing the end of July, I used the email address from Peisha's web site and emailed her, telling her who I was and what I hoped to do. At first, Peisha was not sure about taking me on. There are after all lots of crazy people in the world. It wasn't until she had looked at my blog, viewed my singing performance from Teresa Tang's memorial concert, and seen my Indonesia photos that she saw my passion and agreed to help me. Over the following 6 weeks, we communicated many times as we tried to arrange a suitable schedule for both of us. I changed the schedule at least three times, trying to work around one TVB series 「寫意人生」 that I was filming at the time and another TVB series (「獄焰驚情」) that would begin filming sometime in October. Peisha herself was a very busy person and her schedule too was not entirely foreseeable. But the effort paid off and we eventually had a workable schedule.

On September 20, one day later than originally planned so that I could see the talented 周華健 in concert at the Hong Kong Coliseum before leaving, I left Hong Kong for an adventure. I had no expectations, and no preconceptions of what I would see, learn or experience in L.A. My life has taught me that it is very difficult to predict the future. It is better to go with an open mind, to enjoy the journey and the experience, and learn all that you can.

On Thursday afternoon, September 21 of 2006, having disembarked from my plane three hours earlier and just minutes before booked into a nearby motel, I walked up the footpath by the side of Peisha's home, up to her studio at the back of the house just in time for our first scheduled lesson. In spite of not having slept for more than thirty hours, I felt exhilarated and excited to be there.

As I walked up to the studio, Peisha walked out to greet me. A huge wonderful smile on her face, looking radiant in the afternoon sun, and perhaps just as excited to see me as I was to see her, Peisha held out her hand and greeted me with an abundance of positive energy and joy. It was the beginning of a brand new journey, and the beginning of a precious new friendship.

I stayed in L.A. for four full weeks. I studied privately with Peisha one hour a day, five days a week. I also joined three other cabaret classes that she and a friend taught; one advanced class in her studio on Tuesday nights, and two classes at the Los Angeles Community College on Saturdays where they have taught their cabaret classes to budding performers for more than twenty years. Every hour of learning was invaluable, and sometimes grueling and exhausting. Privately with Peisha, I was able to cure bad habits and build good technique. The improvement over the four weeks was astounding. In the cabaret classes, I learnt much from Peisha, her talented friend, pianist, teacher and music director Mel Dangcil, and the other students.

I learnt a lot more from Peisha than just singing technique though. She taught me about confidence, attitudes, delivery, self-worth and much much more. You can never predict the future, and in this case, I came out winning big time.

Originally planning to return to Hong Kong on October 15 for the new TVB series, I extended my stay in L.A. to spend a few more days with Peisha. Those few extra days turned out to be invaluable because we were able to do something very special. You won't want to miss my next article ;-)