That one night in Bangkok
Classical singer Niall Morris's marriage is harmonious, apart from when he keeps Thai waiter Woody Prompan awake by chatting in bed
Published 29/06/2015 | 02:30
The last thing Niall Morris expected to find on holiday to Thailand was a husband, when he went five years ago with a friend. "We went to a gay club on the second night and it was amazing," he recalls. "Everyone was so friendly. Woody and his friends started talking to me, and I instantly thought he was gorgeous. There was something about his voice that really got to me too."
Woody asked Niall if he wanted to go on a motorbike ride around Bangkok, so he hopped on and found the experience exotic and exhilarating. On arrival back to his hotel, Niall's pal had packed his bags and left.
Woody told him to stay on and he would introduce him to his friends, so Niall stayed for three weeks and had a ball. "I felt very comfortable talking to him, and he was very genuine," says Woody.
People usually move on after a holiday romance, but part of Niall couldn't let it go and he went back again to Bangkok after a few months. There was a connection between them that he couldn't explain, although he knew pursuing a relationship would be complicated.
"My friends all advised me to leave it but I couldn't," he says. "There was a cultural barrier and an age gap too, as there are 14 years between us. Woody's English wasn't as good as he pretended, and while he would use great words, sometimes he wouldn't be able to understand what I was saying."
After conducting a long-distance relationship for a year, Woody came to Dublin for three months. He lived with Niall in the house he shared with comedian Katherine Lynch and singer Brian Kennedy. It was a really fun time, although Woody thought Irish people were "mad."
Niall eventually got his own place and they had their civil partnership three years ago after Niall proposed to Woody at a full moon party, followed by a wonderful reception for 40 people at Derry and Sallyanne Clarke's L'Ecrivain restaurant.
Niall hails from Dundrum, and is the youngest of Michael and Joan's two children. His parents split up when he was five and his dad, an anthropologist, went to work in the US, returning when he was 12. He was an outgoing child who was always good at music, and having secured a place at Trinity to study music, he left when he got a scholarship to train as an opera singer at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
"I was probably about 16 when I realised I was gay, and I came out in England when I was 22," he says. "It wasn't easy to be out in Ireland then, but I had anonymity in London. I met a guy called Andrew, and when I told my mum I had met someone she kept asking about 'her.' I couldn't bring myself to tell her so I said my partner's name was 'Andrea.' She was really cool with me being gay when I met Woody, as she loves him and thinks he's amazing."
Having completed his studies at the National Opera Studio, Niall's singing career flourished with English opera companies. He created the tenor roles in the opera, Powder Her Face, which was released on EMI Classics and nominated for a Grammy award in 2000. He also toured for several years with The Celtic Tenors, but eventually left because he found it "too claustrophobic."
"I was like Zayn Malik," he laughs, comparing himself to the popstar who recently left One Direction. "We were three guys who were constantly on tour, and I had to go as we just weren't getting along. It was an unhealthy environment, and we never really spoke again. These things can be very final."
Woody is from Khon Kaen in Thailand, and is the youngest of Em and the late Boonqwan's four children. His dad passed away when he was 12, and he is very close to his mum. It is totally acceptable to be gay in Thailand, he says, but it is not legal to marry everywhere. He went to work at a restaurant in Bangkok after his two years compulsory navy service. "I had a nice boss, but I worked seven days a week for very small money," he says.
While Woody struggled with our food in the beginning, he loves it here and works as a waiter at Baan Thai restaurant in Ballsbridge, which he really enjoys. He is also studying English and goes back to visit his family once a year. "My friends in Thailand were worried about me coming here too," he explains.
"Niall and I are very good to each other and we are always together. He talks too much after a night out though, when I just want to go to sleep." The first time Woody heard Niall sing, he thought he sounded like a monk, but now he thinks he's great and is very proud of him.
He is looking forward to Niall's new opera The Puccini Scandal, which he has written about the life of opera composer, Giacomo Puccini, and the sex scandal that threatened to destroy him and his family in 1909, when his wife accused him of having an affair with their young maid. With two performances at the Loughcrew Opera Festival next weekend, and one on November 21, at the National Concert Hall, Niall plays the narrative role of Puccini.
The performance also stars leading Irish soprano Mairead Buicke, top UK tenor James Edward, popular Irish baritone, Simon Morgan, and acclaimed concert pianist, Anthony Byrne. Performed in two acts in Loughcrew House's intimate reception rooms, guests can enjoy their own picnics or can enjoy a Loughcrew Italian 'Puccini Picnic' in a marquee.
Niall says that Woody is the most sensible person he has ever met, and, always gives logical responses. They rarely argue, but when they do, Woody wins because he is more stubborn.
"He loves this smelly fish that is a speciality in his area," groans Niall.
"It is like rotten fish that has been in a jar for five years, and you have to open all the windows when it's opened! The penny dropped for both of us this year that we are always going to be together though. Neither of us is going anywhere."
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