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沒預料的回報(下集)

Filed in General, Memoirs, Music, Press, 中文文章Tags: , , ,

彈琴伴奏的男人是一個很出色的音樂家。他看五線譜的時候,隨時可以變調,而且全部都很有感覺。他還可以一邊聽著音樂一邊寫下來譜子。無可否認,他真的很棒,只不過荷里活裡有很多這樣出色的音樂家,所以很難找到好的工作,最後只好甚麼工作都做。

當我們上到第八課的時候,這個音樂家沒有出現了。原來他終於找到一份錢和前途都有的工作了,那就是幫一個音樂舞台劇編寫他們需要的所有的歌曲和音樂。我們當然替他高興,但同時也明白我們這個課程剩下的課就不會再有人替我們伴奏了。真可惜。

那天,就是因為沒有這位鋼琴家,我們早了下課。學生們都走了,只剩下我一個人在教室裡。這門課就是我每逢星期五上的最後一課,也是整個星期的最後一課。我沒有功課做,沒有甚麼地方可去,連最熟的同學都有事,不能陪我。回家也不太吸引人,因為我住的地方存在著一種既不舒服又不太受歡迎的氣氛,只好留在教室裡,看看可不可以彈彈我們學生們喜歡唱的歌。

Our classroom, theatrette

The classroom in which Elizabeth's class was conducted was originally a small theatre probably used principally for viewing movies; possibly film clips of Lee Strasberg's lectures recorded before he died. I say this because there's a hole in the wall behind the curtains, a hole through which a projector would have projected the clips. Lee Strasberg's lectures are now shown in a newly renovated theatre called the Monroe Theatre, named after Marilyn Monroe, once a student of Lee Strasberg.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

音樂對我來說是很特別的。無論甚麼地方,甚麼時候,甚麼事情,音樂永遠都會在我身邊,陪著我,安慰我,鼓勵我。除了我的太太之外,音樂就是我一生最重要的,最可靠的朋友。可惜我對音樂的認識太少,幾乎甚麼樂理都不懂,甚至連一種樂器都不會用。

可能這兒就是緣份,在這個特別的情況下讓我有一個機會學到我一生渴求的技術。

坐在鋼琴前,看著一張我不會看的五線譜卻也有為了結他手而寫的和弦,我只好看著那些結他的和弦,慢慢地算出來每個和弦的結構。大調和弦就是用一三五的音,小調和弦就是把第三個音減半個音,就是這樣慢慢地計算出來每個和弦。不知不覺地,我在原本應該下課的時間前已經能彈出其中一首歌。雖然彈得很簡單,有一點兒像彈結他一樣的彈法,但是已經夠了,已經有音樂感。我的夢開始慢慢成真了。

那那天到現在已經有一年了。我不時練習彈琴,盡量使我的彈琴技術一天比一天好。有我的電子琴,有一些音樂書,我隨時都可以一邊彈一邊唱一些我喜歡的歌。不用說,我算不上專業,但是也不能說太差。關於彈琴,當然我還有很多要學的東西。但是已經有了個開始。

上個月,我去了印尼,去我們前家務助理的家並参加她的婚禮。可能因為她家鄉連一個會說英文的人都沒有,而我幾乎沒有辦法跟他家人溝通,我就在那時對印尼話產生了一點興趣。現在已經會說幾個字了,而每天都會跟我們現在的印尼家務助理學一兩個字。學了二十年廣東話,學得那麼辛苦,我沒想到我會再有勇氣敢去學另外一種新的語言。

很多人覺得到了某一個年紀的時候就沒有學新東西的能力了。是不是我這個四十歲的人已經證明這種想法不對的。如果你有甚麼想學的,但因為年紀的問題而不敢嘗試的話,不如馬上就去試試吧。你也可能會得到沒預料的回報。

沒預料的回報(上集)

Filed in General, Memoirs, Music, Press, 中文文章Tags: , , ,

去年,我為了能夠演更好的戲而到荷里活去了三個月。雖然我差不多半生在無線電視台從事演員,但是我依然覺得我的演技還可以好得多。始終,一邊工作一邊學習可以學到的的確有限。只有專業的導師(和一點緣份)才能學到最好的。所以,去年年初,我終於決定上學正式學習演戲。

我在荷里活的時間非常開心,但是因為我很久沒有跟我的太太和狗狗分開那麼長的時間,所以亦有一點想念他們。幸運地,那時候,香港打電話打到美國的費用很便宜讓我每天都可以跟我的太太通兩三次電話,而每星期天還可以到我美國住宿的房子附近的蘋果電腦商店借用他們的電腦和「iChat」軟件跟我的太太通視像電話見面,讓星期天成為我正個星期最開心的一天。

在荷里活上學,我當然學了不少,演技也有一定的進步。但是我也得到非預料的回報,使這個旅程成為我生命中特別重要的一個。

學生們在學校報名的時候需要選擇課文。有些課目就是必上的,而其他的課目就任你選擇。所有的課目都是關於演戲的,除了一個之外。

這個課的老師是一個很精神的八十五歲的名為 Elizabeth Sabine 的女人,恰巧跟我一樣是澳洲人。由於她的年紀不少,所以有時候就會忘記了她剛剛說的話而不知不覺重複說一次,可是她非常可愛的,而我們每個學生都喜歡她。

Elizabeth and Me

Elizabeth was a wonderful person. As far as I know, this was the last class she taught at the Lee Strasberg Institute.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

她教的是唱歌的技術。她曾經在澳洲,英國,美國,甚至香港(還沒有現在的灣仔的時候)都唱過歌,所以對唱歌非常熟悉。學校請她教唱歌的目的卻不是希望學生們能唱好歌,而希望學生們能學怎麼大聲說話。 Elizabeth 的名氣就是來自教人怎麼大大聲聲唱歌,也因為這樣而得到她的花名,就是「The queen of screech」。

一課為三個小時。首四十五分鐘就是鬆身和開聲的練習。十五分鐘休息已後,學生們就一個一個地在班學生們前邊跟一個鋼琴家唱歌,一邊唱一邊聽著 Elizabeth 的指示。

老實說,一般學生選擇課目的時候也都會選擇一兩個不用做那麼多功課的課文,甚至希望可以不上課也有。Elizabeth 的課就是這種課,所以很多學生就會當她的課是一種娛樂,一堂 karaoke,不用學甚麼東西,不用主意老師的指示,不用為了下次上課而作準備。Elizabeth 都知道這一點所以每次遇到努力的學生,她就會特別用心去教那個學生。

Elizabeth coaching one of my fellow students

Elizabeth would coach each of the students as they sung their chosen songs.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Song: The Nearness of You

Filed in Memoirs, Music, Music: My SongsTags: ,

My next am730 article is just about finished. Part 1 was published a week ago and Part 2 should be published next week. I'll post the full article here after am730 has published it.

This am730 article mentions a teacher I had the fortune to meet while studying at The Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles last year. Her name was Elizabeth and we had a wonderful time together. One of the songs I sang during class that she particularly liked was "The Nearness of You", a wonderful song published way back in 1937. I'm going to record some of my songs and post them here on the blog and I thought this song would be a good start.

This song was recorded in September of 2004, just after returning from Los Angeles. Both the piano and voice are mine. With only three months of piano in my pocket, it was the beginning of a new life in music for me.

I hope you like it.

The Nearness of You as sung by Gregory Charles Rivers, September 2004.

It’s noisy but who cares!

Filed in Music

My wife and I are at the Robin Gibb concert in the HK Exhibition Centre. We arrived half an hour late much to my wife's chagrin. I planned on parking beneath the new extension but after half an hour of queueing in traffic finally arrived at a full car park. We had to swing around and park in the car park next to the hotel and walk over instead. Whoever designed this exhibition centre should be shot. They should have planned for large numbers of people parking here. It is after all an exhibition centre.

So we finally made it to the concert, albeit late.

My impressions? This place wasn't designed for concerts. The sound properties are terrible. Add to that the loud volumes that the speakers have to produce and substandard sound mixing and you end up with a lot of noise where Robin's voice is sometimes hardly discernable.

Robin's voice is raspy and the chorus is sometimes off key. The music is over-bearing and the orchestral music arranger succumbed to the common temptation and musical sin of using as many instruments as much of the time as possible.

The floor of the hall is flat so people at the back have a hard time seeing Robin on stage, and because all sound is produced by the speakers in front, people sitting in the front section are getting blasted as if they were in a rock concert.

But the songs are great, and the Bee Gee fans? Well they're having a fantastic time!

Time to sign off and listen to the music ;-)

Leo Koo, a ‘True Music’ experience

Filed in Entertainment Ind., Music

My wife and I went to Leo Koo's (古巨基) concert tonight at the Hong Kong Colosseum. We were given the tickets by a friend of mine, and were very surprised to find ourselves sitting in the second row. My wife commented that she probably wouldn't need to wear her glasses. That's how close we were.

Leo's a music man. He's loved singing for a long time, so much so that even after becoming quite successful as an actor for China-produced television serials, he chose to give up the television work and resume his singing. Tonight simply proved that he made the right choice.

The concert was great. Leo really knew how to make the music live. There's a difference between a singer who can keep key and a singer who knows how to make use of volume, emphasis and timing to bring a song alive, and Leo did everything right.

It became obvious that music itself was an important part of this concert. The arrangements and band were excellent and the volume wasn't too loud. There was even a whole segment where the backing singers came up on stage and sung alongside Leo. I've never seen this in Hong Kong and it was executed extremely well. The singers obviously had a lot of fun too.

The dancing was appropriate. The dancers employed for Hong Kong's concerts are always top notch but the arrangement can sometimes go overboard or become inappropriate for family viewing. That didn't happen tonight. All of the dances were related to Leo's own personality and nothing too spicy happened during the dances.

Leo's waited 11 years for this concert. He had the opportunity to open a concert eight years ago when one of his songs became a big hit here in Hong Kong. After considering the number of hit songs he had on hand and his experience, Leo passed up the invitation. In some ways, he regrets it because it took another 8 years before that opportunity re-introduced itself. I on the other hand think everything worked out well for him. He's more famous and popular now than he ever was, and he's a very strong singer and performer. With the bad economic times of 1997 and SARS behind us, his career can only soar from this point on.

He's going to be one of the greatest singers that Hong Kong has ever seen. Just wait and see.