Back to the town we loved so well... Paul and Dominique Byrom
Having just returned from New York, tenor Paul Byrom and his wife Dominique are rebuilding their lives and careers here
Tenor Paul Byrom first saw his future wife Dominique when he was 21 and she was only 15. He was performing on her dad Phil Coulter's annual Tranquility cruise, and while obviously nothing happened between them, he told his mates at home that Phil's daughter was going to be a "cracker" when she grew up.
"They were like, 'That's just wrong,'" he laughs. "I didn't see Dominique again until seven years later when Phil invited me on the cruise again. I was sitting in the cocktail bar, when this blonde wearing a short skirt with really long legs came in. I was like, 'Jesus, who's your one?' and a guy in the band quickly told me and warned me not to touch 'a Coulter kid.' I was blown away by her looks from the very beginning, but also loved Dom's sense of humour. I am outgoing and in-your-face, whereas Dom is the complete opposite, so she balances me and keeps me calm."
Lovely Dominique. who is the second-eldest of her parents' six children, hadn't even noticed Paul on that first cruise, but now at 22, she thought he was hilarious. While they were madly attracted to one another, there were a few factors that caused them to hesitate.
"I was still at college, which made me feel so much younger than Paul," Dominique says. "I never thought he would fancy me, but didn't realise that he felt like an old man and thought I wouldn't fancy him. I fell for him because he was very attractive and funny and didn't take himself too seriously. I also loved that he was always talking about his family."
After the cruise, the old man of 29 and the Coulter kid decided to meet up, but kept their relationship under wraps initially. One worry was that Paul had just signed up for Celtic Thunder, which Phil was producing, and they were afraid it might cause some awkwardness.
"Dom and I used to meet up in dark pubs like we were having some sort of extramarital affair, as we wanted to establish that we had real feelings for each other," says Paul. "Then I rang Phil and told him I would like to take Dom to a ball. He said to go for it but he doubted she would go with me, as he's always winding me up. From day one, Phil, and Dom's mum Geraldine, have both been really supportive."
When he was 20, Paul, now 36, lost his dad Michael to suicide. His parents' marriage had ended eight years earlier and sadly Paul and his dad didn't have a good relationship.
"Dad had a drink problem so I didn't see him for seven years," he says. "I also resented him for leaving us and was very loyal to Mum. I was prepared to meet him if he was sober, but that never happened. I think it's a life regret for me, but when you're dealing with alcoholism, it's impossible to discuss things with the person if they don't see the problem. My dad realised he messed up towards the end of his life, but, unfortunately, it came about too late."
Blackrock boy Paul is very close to his Mum Kathleen and sister Amanda. He is adopted, but he is the image of his mother.
"Mum got me a week after I was born and she has been wonderful," he says. "She's an incredible, caring, strong woman. People always ask if I wonder about my biological parents, but I've never had an inkling to find them. I love that Dom is really close to my family too."
Paul's musical talent was spotted early and he trained with the late Dal McNulty as a boy soprano. He released his first album, The Golden Voice, aged 14, and went to train with Veronica Dunne as a tenor. Two amazing teachers, he says. He has worked as a singer since then.
After Dominique graduated from her degree in business and law at Dublin Business School, she was eligible for a working visa in the US, so she and Paul moved to New York for four years. They absolutely loved it and Dominique worked with Self Help Africa and then moved to the Fitzpatrick hotel on Lexington Avenue. For Paul, who had a strong profile here thanks to his amazing voice, it was a big challenge, as he had to find a new agency and new management. Six months later, his album, This is the Moment, went to number one in the World Billboard charts and he recorded an hour-long TV special for PBS.
Paul and Dominique were married in August 2013 and, after a lot of soul-searching, they moved back to Dublin permanently in September 2014. Paul was worried that we might have forgotten about him while he was away, but is testing the waters with his forthcoming tour of The Great Irish Songbook, which will include a wide spectrum of songs and will celebrate everything Irish.
Moya Brennan is his special guest at the concert in the National Concert Hall and he is both excited and nervous about what promises to be a magical evening.
"I am so fortunate to have someone like Dom in my life, as she understands the business and gets it when I have to go away for months," he says. "When things get quiet, I worry, and she'll reassure me that something will come up. Dom has settled back quicker than I have, which is strange because I was the home bird and she loved America."
Now 30, Dominique is back working here and has taken Paul's surname. The pair are looking forward to hopefully having children in the future, and are practising parenthood on Bradley, their adored Yorkie/Maltese 'Morkie.'
"I know that Paul always has my back and I have his," says Dominique. "We have been through a few tough times together and had to lean on each other a lot when we lived abroad, which made us a strong unit.
"We laugh through the hard times. When I see him on stage, I'm always bursting with pride, as I'm just in awe of his talent."
Paul Byrom sings 'The Great Irish Songbook' at the National Concert Hall on November 7, bookings www.nch.ie. Other dates include Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick, October 31; Theatre Royal, Waterford, November 11; Hawkswell Theatre, Sligo, November 15; and Birr Theatre, Offaly, November 25. www.paulbyrom.ie