The Bangkok Ladyboy Male Voice Choir
Ray and Bryn had been friends for almost 10 years. Bryn and his wife Katherine had moved to the English Midlands from the Welsh valleys when he lost his job at the Port Talbot steelworks. Ray was a metallurgist by education but for some years had worked as senior furnace man operating the huge Cupola melting unit which delivered 12 ton of molten iron every hour to the voracious moulding lines of a large automotive foundry.
Ray liked Bryn from the moment of his arrival on the furnace platform to begin his first days work as Ray’s assistant. Bryn had worked on the blast furnace at the steelworks in his previous employment so was well acquainted with the processes and disciplines of big furnace operation. They were of a similar age and over the next few years they developed a strong friendship forged in the comradeship of toiling together in hot dirty and dangerous working conditions.
At the end of the shift they always took a shower and changed into clean clothes prior to repairing to the local pub. This was to “settle the dust” before going home. It would take two pints of lager consumed in quick succession to quench their thirst; they could then savour the third pint in a more relaxed manner. It had always been a source of amusement to Ray that this was the point which Bryn would check his watch. Ray would tease his friend “Your pass out hasn’t expired yet, you have another 20 minutes before you have to return to the comforts of your wife”. Not that he received much comfort. Bryn appeared in mortal dread of his wife and knew if he returned home late for his dinner he would suffer the rough edge of her tongue and withdrawal of his modest conjugal rights.
Like many Welsh men Bryn was a gregarious fellow, a strange harmony of contrasts full of wild enthusiasms and occasional deep moroseness. Everyone attributed his sporadic depressions to his dark Celtic soul, all except Ray who put it down to his wife.
Katherine was a mean spirited Welsh woman …all chapel and chintz curtains. The archetypal disappointed woman she felt it her Christian duty to make Bryn’s life a misery.
The only night Bryn relaxed was Monday when he had an extension to his pass out to attend choir practice. Ray had sung with the Tipton and district Male voice choir since his return to the area 15 years ago. Bryn long expressed a desire to join the choir with his friend but for some time his wife wouldn’t allow him. Bryn claimed to have sung in both the Morriston Orpheus and Treorchy Male choir when he lived in the Land of my fathers, which Ray humoured as harmless fantasy. Like every Englishman you meet above the age of 70 claimed to have once been the youngest sergeant in the British army, Ray had yet to meet a Welshman who hadn’t had a trial as scrum half for his county or sung in some famous Male voice choir.
Then out of the blue Katherine had begun going out to Bingo on Monday nights so graciously allowed Bryn to join the choir. The first time Ray took him to practice he was pleasantly surprised to discover that Bryn actually had a marvelous baritone voice, rich, dark and sonorous. Bryn took to singing with a passion, within a few months had learnt all the choirs’ repertoire and became recognised as a leading voice in the baritone section. Ray taught him the rudiments of reading music and within a year he had become the baritone soloist for the choir. There had never been a more enthusiastic chorister in the choir’s long history. Ray had never seen so much joy in a man when Bryn was issued with the regulation navy blue blazer with the choir’s insignia on the breast pocket. He wore it with such pride Ray suspected he probably kept it on in bed.
Ray had initially anticipated a problem with Katherine as during the concert season they could be out singing two or three nights a week. But he was astounded when Katherine sanctioned Bryn’s increased liberty with little argument.” I can have extra nights at the Bingo if he is out singing” was her surprising response.
For a few years Bryn was content in the routine then one day he returned from work (on time) to find a note from Katherine informing him she had left him. Apparently the nights out at the Bingo were actually romantic trysts with Cecil the deputy manager from the Co-op and an elder of the chapel she attended. The letter further informed that they had left to run a guest house together in Aberystwyth. Bryn was understandably devastated. Ray was sad to see the anguish of his friend but felt Bryn would be better off without her in the long run. He just needed to show him…to which end, he had a plan
Ray had never married. His father had died just as he was completing University. At the funeral he was approached by Tom the manager of the foundry his father had worked for all his life. Tom had been close friends with Ray’s father and he had known Ray since he was a boy. Tom was also conductor of the local male voice choir. He offered Ray a job on the furnaces when he finished college, if he wanted it. In the absence of any great ambition Ray took the job and moved back in with his mother. His mother had a terminal condition and he cared for her until her demise three years later. Her passing had left him with a semi detached house in a pleasant part of town. He sold the house, giving him a nice nest egg to invest and rented a small flat near the foundry. He led a frugal existence and everyone who knew him thought his only passion was the choir and the two extended holidays a year he took to visit his Elderly Aunt in Australia.
But Ray had a secret known only to a very select few. He had no elderly Aunt nor had he ever been to Australia. For the past 10 years His prudent life style and the interest on his little nest egg funded a twice yearly trip to the Kingdom of Thailand. In that time Ray had seen the pussy shows in Patpong visited every Go-go bar in Cowboy and Nana, every soapy massage parlour in Suhkumvit, every hostess bar in the street of artists and even found time to see a couple of temples. He had sampled the part timers of the Biergarten and Thermae, had a good hiding at the Eden club and availed himself of the best timeshare girl friends that the kingdom could offer. For 3 weeks every six months Ray was the classic sex monger and he collected enough memories to keep him smiling through the remainder of the year living in the UK.
Ray had never felt the urge to bring a Thai bride back to Britain. He saw Thailand as the hologram suite in Star Trek, a place of fantasy, an adult Disneyland. He rationalised you wouldn’t visit Disneyland and try to marry Minnie Mouse.
Tom his manager knew his secret as he had to sanction his absences from work; in fact it was Tom who had first suggested Thailand to Ray. He had visited Pattaya on holiday with his wife Gladys some years ago. It was his great regret that his wife had been with him, she had seen the goings on with her own eyes which meant he would never be allowed to go alone to Thailand on the golfing holidays he so coveted. Tom enjoyed a vicarious pleasure when he had Ray retell him his adventures. One person Ray definitely kept in the dark was his best friend Bryn, he knew Bryn could not keep the information from Katherine and Ray did not want the complications of such a mean spirited woman knowing his secret .
With the departure of Katherine circumstances had changed. Bryn had moved out of the marital home and began the process of selling it. He had moved into Rays flat. One evening after work Ray told his new flat mate all about his Siamese sojourns. For the first time since he knew him Bryn sat speechless in open mouthed wonderment. Ray recounted descriptions of the soft skinned feminine woman he encountered and the how they were so different from the uncouth graceless creatures they were accustomed to living in Tipton. Amid the tales of debauchery he recounted Ray could not fail to notice Bryn had been most attentive at his descriptions of those exotic creatures more woman than real women, namely the Katoeys or Lady Boys.
It was therefore not surprising that Bryn had jumped at Rays suggestion he accompany him on his next trip to the Kingdom, particularly when Ray had offered to pay for his air fare and hotel.
Arrangements were made, firstly with Tom who sanctioned the two of them being away together, with the proviso they returned with a number of scandalous tales and spicy photos to satisfy his vicarious desires.
The Thai airways flight was uneventful and Bryn regaled his fellow passengers with tales of his rugby career and his musical prowess. Ray navigated them through the airport into a taxi to the infamous Nana Hotel. They checked in to find despite Ray making both bookings together their rooms were at opposite ends of the hotel, but mai pen rai. Ray told Bryn to settle in and meet him back in the lobby in an hour’s time. Once in his room Ray threw his bag on the bed and unpacked with a practiced ease. He showered and changed into smart casual clothes suitable for the climate then made his way to the lobby to meet his pal. Bryn was waiting patiently in the lobby wearing his choir blazer, thick flannel slacks with a shirt and tie. It was 8.00 in the evening but even with the hotels air conditioning he was perspiring profusely. On seeing him Ray was amused and exclaimed “you daft bugger you will sweat your cobblers off in that get up”. He told his friend to go back to the room and change into something cooler. Bryn returned in a pair of chinos and a polo shirt with the choir’s logo embroidered on the breast pocket. Satisfied with the compromise Ray led his friend to the Golden bar adjacent to the hotel.
They settled themselves on chairs beside the rail overlooking the busy Soi and ordered four beers from a cute waitress with a delightful smile. Neither spoke until they had put themselves outside the four beers to “settle the dust”. Ray ordered two more beers, bought the waitress a drink and only then did they relax and savior the atmosphere. Bryn was silent totally mesmerised by the early evening bustle of Nana Tai. Ray back in his spiritual home and at ease with the world, was lost in memories of previous visits.
They were woken from their reverie by a polite “excuse me are these seats taken?” Ray looked up to see two highly respectable looking gentlemen pointing at the two vacant chairs at their table. Ray apologized for his daydream and invited them to join him. The two gentlemen smiled and took their seats. Ray identified them as Americans from their accents and their clothes. Although casually dressed as befitted the climate, their clothes were clearly expensive and well cut. Ray enjoyed meeting new people on his visits but had developed radar that quickly identified the ones to welcome and who to avoid. Ray immediately identified these two as cultured well-mannered fellows who would be interesting company, so he introduced himself and Bryn to the newcomers. They reciprocated, introducing themselves as Abe and Jack two retired businessmen from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
In spite of the reclusive image Ray preferred to portray back home he was actually very sociable and once outside his hometown made friends easily. Bryn was an incorrigible raconteur so the conversation flowed easily with two genial and refined chaps like Abe and Jack. In the course of the conversation the Americans explained that they were both widowers and upon taking early retirement five years ago their intention had been to spend six months a year touring the world. But since discovering Bangkok four years ago their annual world tour was now exclusively taken in Thailand. Jack recounted some of the misadventures that two elderly gentlemen could only experience in Thailand and Ray had them in stitches with some of his own unusual experiences in the kingdom.
Ray spotted a face he recognised entering the bar and called him over. Mike was an Aussie who had lived and worked in Bangkok for some years. In his mid 50s Mike cut a fine figure, was well respected in the Bangkok business community and a celebrity amongst aficionados of the Naughty night life. Mike had been introduced to Ray on his first visit by a mutual friend and they had been pals ever since. Ray made the introductions and Mike joined the party. Mike had an unequaled fund of stories which he delivered in that wonderful droll manner that only antipodeans can master.
In a rare lull in the conversation Abe happened to mention the choir logo on Bryn’s polo shirt. This came as no surprise to Ray as for the past hour Bryn had done everything but stand on his head trying to draw attention to it. Ray smiled to himself as Bryn began to tell everyone about the male voice choir and the major role he played in it. Abe interjected and explained that he also sung Bass in a barbers shop quartet and Jack was the lead tenor in the Westmoreland county operatic society. This prompted a lively discussion about the difference between the harmonies employed in barbers shop singing compared to traditional male voice choirs. Bryn was like a dog with two dicks and a full bladder in a street full of lampposts.
Much as Ray enjoyed his music and the present company, he was in Bangkok and life was short. He checked his watch and was surprised to see it was almost 10.00. He interrupted the conversation and enquired what the plans were for the evening. Abe and Jack expressed an interest in exploring the Nana plaza opposite. Ray said he had planned to see Soi cowboy but seeing the disappointment on Bryn’s face at the thought of leaving his new found friends; Ray relented and agreed to a perusal of the Nana plaza.
The party repaired up the stairs to Angelwitch just in time to see the show begin. Bryn sat open mouthed at the spectacle. On reflection Ray was pleased that the first Go-go bar Bryn saw was Angelwitch. It is an entertaining cabaret and a gentle induction to the scene. Never the less Ray was glad when the group decided to move on. The next point of call was the Mandarine, a particular favourite of Rays with some toothsome morsels on display. There was one little Issan cutie giving him the eye, and he thought maybe she should be the one tonight to take deposit of his six month abstinence. He could hear Bryn telling Jack and Abe a tale about singing at the Royal Albert Hall with the massed Welsh male voice choirs. Bryn was clearly unimpressed with the Mandarine merchandise; it was time to move on.
Rainbow 4 was buzzing as usual and presented some of the best eye candy in the plaza. Mike sat next to Ray and whispered in his ear “Jeez Ray your Taffy mate can sure spin the bull” Ray smiled and explained “Bryn is a great bloke, a reliable chap who would lay down his life for you but there is no denying he could bullshit for a Rest of the World XI.” Mike laughed and declared “I think it is time we introduced Bryn to Thailand’s fairer third sex.”
The gang entered the Katoey bar to screams of delight from the laydees on stage. They selected seats as far back as they could but still received some intensive fondling as they were directed to their seats. Beers ordered they settled back to enjoy the exotic display. Bryn turned to Ray and remarked “this is more like it; these women are sexier than the little waifs you showed me in the other bars”. Ray did not have the heart to tell him the truth.
They had hardly taken the skin from their beer when the power failed and all the lights went out. Once the theatrical screams had died down the serving laydees began distributing lighted candles for illumination. He heard Bryn mention it was like the blitz and suggested they could sing a few numbers to keep everyone entertained. To Ray’s horror Bryn started singing the first line of “Some enchanted evening”.
Oh God! Ray thought, it is the first night of my vacation I am stuck in a katoey bar during a power cut and that pillock is going to start singing love songs. We shall all end up needing a surgeon to knit us new arse holes if we are not careful. Ray made a decision and got to his feet.
FOR PITYS SAKE HOLD UP He screamed and seeing Bryn halt in mid stanza dropped his voice an octave and continued “if you do insist on singing in this den of arse banditry let us at least do it properly. Jack you sing the melody, Bryn and Abe sing harmony in thirds beneath him and I will put a counter melody over the top”.
Abe and Jack nodded in agreement and Jack began in a melodious tenor voice.
Some enchanted evening…
You may see a stranger; you may see a stranger across a crowded room…
Abe and Bryn joined in with a gentle harmony and Ray provided a light counter melody
And somehow you know…you know even then,
That somewhere you’ll see her again and again.
As the music of Rogers and Hammerstein filled the air the bar went silent and as they sung the second verse everyone was in rapt attention. It was the turn of the Katoeys to sit in open mouthed wonder.
Who can explain it who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons wise men never try…
A couple of the laydees had sidled up to Bryn, One was one his lap and the other had entwined her arms around him.
Some enchanted evening when you find your true love…
When you feel her call you across a crowded room
Some of laydees recognising the refrain were attempting to sing along. They didn’t know the words but Ray noted one or two of them were nicely in tune.
Then fly to her side and make her your own
Or all through your life you may dream all alone
The climax approaching Ray had no intention of letting a Yank out sing him
Once you have found her never let her go
Once you have found her, ne-ver let her GO
Both Jack and Ray hit the top G with gusto and a definite hint of competition. It was only drown out by the sound of the enthusiastic applause which reverberated around the bar. Some wag shouted “Encore” to which Bryn innocently replied “Never mind encore, let’s just sing the same one again!”
At that moment the power supply returned and the lighting came back on. The sound system music resumed, some laydees began dancing again and the bar resumed to what passed for normality. Ray had enjoyed a good sing but thought it time to move on back to Mandarine and collect his little Issan bunny. Bryn still had two laydees on his lap and was describing singing at the Birmingham Symphony Hall to their uncomprehending faces. He shouts to Ray and asks him to explain again how bar fining worked. Ray looked at his friend Mike for inspiration. Mike smiled and said “leave it to me I will enlighten him” Ray watched as Mike diplomatically explained to Bryn the true nature of the ladies on his lap. It was with some amusement he saw Bryn’s face slowly change as the truth dawned upon him. He finally spoke “I thought her voice was a bit deep even for a contralto” he went very quiet for a moment then continued “she would make a good tenor though”.
Ray finished his beer, called for the bill, and suggested it was time to go. Bryn protested reluctant to leave having got nicely settled with his two laydees. Abe remarked that he and Jack were staying a while longer. They assured Ray not to worry as they would see that Bryn got back to the hotel ok. Knowing his friend was in safe hands; he and Mike made their farewells and returned to the Mandarine. His little cutie was still there, Ray bar fined her and took her back the hotel with somewhat indecent haste.
He woke the next morning and finally disentangled himself from his delicious companion. His first action after rousing her was to phone Bryn’s room, but there was no answer. As his room was the other side of the hotel he put off checking up on him until after breakfast. Ray and his escort took breakfast in the Nana restaurant and as soon as she left him Ray went up to seek out Bryn’s room. Ray knocked on the door but there was no reply. He returned to his own room to find a note had been passed under the door. It was in Bryn’s handwriting and read
‘I will probably not see you for a day or so, Nut and Oyo are taking me to see the Royal Palace and maybe a bit of shopping. We are talking about going to Hua Hin tomorrow. I am ok and enjoying myself. Don’t worry I will catch up with you some time later this week. Cheers Bryn’
Ray was bemused and a little concerned by the note but relieved that his friend had let him know what he was doing. It would help in filing a police report if necessary.
Ray spent the day in some of his regular haunts around Suhkumvit. In between trying unsuccessfully to contact Bryn on his mobile he caught up with a few ex pat acquaintances and old timeshare girlfriends. He returned to the Nana at around 6.00. A call to his room and enquiries at reception revealed no sign of his friend. He took a short nap and woke refreshed two hours later. He showered, changed and repaired to the Golden bar.
Sitting at the rail were Jack and Abe, Ray joined them. Abe immediately asked the whereabouts of his friend Bryn. Ray explained about the note and Jack laughed. “We stayed in that bar last night, it was good fun and it was clear two of the laydees had taken possession of your pal”.
Jack paused for a moment clearly selecting his words and continued.
“I think he was quite smitten with the one little katoey, I must admit she is a real looker, petite and feminine …definitely post-op. The other one is a bit more butch, but you could see she was absolutely besotted with Bryn. He had to take them as a pair so he bar fined them both. We walked back to the Nana with him and the last we saw of him they were going into the lift to his room”.
Seeing the concern in Ray’s eyes, Abe interrupted his friend.
“I wouldn’t worry too much; I know he will be ok”.
Abe blushed slightly and continued.
“I …ahem …went with the little one myself for a few days last month”.
Seeing the look of astonishment his friend Jack was giving him Abe quickly declared.
“Well… I was curious”
Jack grinned and Abe remembering his friend already knew and was only teasing him, he relaxed and continued.
“Her name is Nut and she is actually a very sweet and sensitive soul. She told me her life story. He studied as a musician …as a pianist back in Nakhon somewhere, but even as a young boy recognised he was born in the wrong body. He made a living playing with a show band. Over the years he had the gender realignment operations until a couple of years ago she had the full nip and tuck procedure that completed the process.”
Ray stifled the obvious question on his lips as he felt it would be impolite to ask.
“She told me that was the point she decided upon a new life. She quit the band and started dancing at the plaza. A decision I believe she somewhat regrets. The other one is named Oyo he is definitely pre op and as some distant relative of Nut, tends to look out for her. I believe he is a harmless misfit from a rich family and has a property in Hua Hin.
Abe rather sheepishly continued
“I went to Hua Hin with them myself for a couple of days; it is quite a nice set up.
Jack stepped in and concluded “
“Ray, to answer your concerns I think Bryn will be ok with them…and anyway he is old enough and ugly enough to look after himself, so don’t worry about him”.
Ray was not fully convinced knowing Bryn’s wild enthusiasms. But he conceded he was a grown man and there was little he could do.
Abe grinned at Ray and whispered,
“And to answer the question you have been dying to ask, but are far too polite to do so…yes her man made ladies front bottom was very authentic, and quite remarkable”.
Their laughter changed the mood and they began discussing plans for the evening.
They made their way to Soi Cowboy. The tour began with Happy hour in the Dollhouse. As soon as he walked in he spotted Poot on stage. Poot was an old favorite of Ray, just turned 30 she was the sweetest natured girl in Suhkumvit with the most exquisite legs in the kingdom. On seeing Ray she gave a little scream jumped off the stage and threw herself into Rays waiting arms. She led him to a seat at the rear of the bar placed herself on his lap and showered him with kisses. Abe and Jack settled in beside them. Ray ordered drinks and introduced Poot to them. After a couple of beers Ray was ready to tour a few bars with his friends. He gave Poot 2000 baht telling her to settle the bill and pay her barfine for a couple of days. He would come and collect her later.
Their tour took in Tilac, Suzy Wong, Baccarat, and Rawhide ending up in Long gun. At midnight Abe and Jack called it a day so Ray collected Poot and returned to the Hotel with her.
Poot informed Ray she had paid her barfine for four days so for the next few days Ray threw himself into the Thai girl friend experience. Poot was a consummate actress who relished the role. She was also a delightful companion so for a couple of days he didn’t give Bryn much thought. On the fourth day a note was pushed under his door. It was in Bryn’s handwriting.
Meet me in that katoey bar tonight at 10.00 (tell Jack and Abe if you see them) I have a surprise for you. Cheers Bryn.
By good fortune they met Abe and Jack on their way to the Bus Stop restaurant for a spot of lunch. Ray explained about the note, they smiled and promised to be there. Ray also phoned his pal Mike inviting him along.
The gang arrived at the bar a little early but there was no sign of Bryn. The bar was heaving with customers but they were led to some seats that the serving girl said had been reserved for them. Their curiosity was certainly aroused now. Ray noticed a petite girl dressed in a white shirt and bow tie take position at a large Casio keyboard that had been set up at the side of the stage. Ray recognised her as Nut, one of Bryn’s companions the other evening. The music from the sound system ceased and the lights went down.
The sound of the opening chords of “One night in Bangkok” came from the Casio keyboard and got the attention of the audience. A skillfully played transition moved into the overture from the “King and I”. A nice touch thought Ray. This girl was certainly an accomplished musician. A spotlight illuminated the stage to reveal eight laydees all dressed in white shirts bow ties and tight leather shorts. The music changed to the introductory bars of “Some enchanted evening” and a burley figure stepped forward from the rear of the ensemble and began singing the opening line.
Some enchanted evening you may see a stranger…
Ray immediately recognized the dulcet tones of his friend Bryn but could not believe the sight confronting him. He stood resplendent in white shirt, bow tie …and tight leather shorts. A long black wig completed the vision . Ray observed that his beard did little for the effect.
As Bryn sang the laydees of the ensemble behind him provided a competent harmony although Ray could not fail to notice it lacked a decent counter melody.
Once you have found her, never let her go.
Once you have found her, ne-ver let her go.
Bryn sensibly avoided the top G and finished on a sonorous E flat.
The applause was cut short as Nut commenced the intro to “Nothing like a Dame” and Bryn began…
We got sunlight on the sand we got moonlight on the sea…
The laydees of the chorale had donned white naval caps and began a cute little dance routine. When Bryn reached the chorus they joined in.
There is nothing like a dame, nothing in the world…
The effect was quite charming and the piece was completed with one of the laydees revealing an astonishingly deep bass voice…
A girly, womanly, female, feminine … dame.
As the applause faded, a large laydee nervously stepped forward. Ray recognized her as Oyo, Bryn’s other companion from the previous evening. She offered a gentle rendition of Elvis’s “Love me tender and “Can’t help falling in love” in a sweet tenor voice. The supporting harmonies were simple but pleasing. It was an arrangement Ray knew and it sat well on male voice choirs. Oyo finished the piece tenderly.
I can’t help falling in love with you…
Oyo was one of their own so the applause and shrieks from the katoeys in the audience was quite spirited.
Bryn launched into an old male voice favourite
Row boatman row, row boatman row, row boatman, row us o’er the waters blue…
This was a good choice as it required the ensemble merely to repeat: row, row, row, row in support. A simple effect, but highly entertaining.
By now the bar was packed to the rafters with passers by coming in curious to check the source of the hullabaloo.
Bryn stepped forward and presented a moving interpretation of “Bring him home” from Les Miserables. The ensemble followed with “Do you hear the people sing” from the same musical. This entailed them marching forward and backward a few steps as they sang, just as Ray had seen in the London stage performance. He was most impressed.
The concert concluded with “Llanfair” a traditional Welsh hymn tune much beloved of Male voice choirs.
Gwyn a Gwrid og hawdd garia-wn. ( Praise the lord his glories show)
Ray was astounded that Bryn had chosen for them to sing in Welsh.
But on reflection did it matter? The whole concept of a bunch of Buddhist Thai transsexuals singing a Christian Hymn in the Welsh language was no more incongruous than much he had witnessed in this dysfunctional Disneyland.
Amen, amen, a-men, amen and A-MEN
The rousing finale would have bought tears to a glass eye anywhere in the world
The audience responded with tumultuous applause as the choir was mobbed by their katoey colleagues. Bryn eventually disengaged himself from the throng and descended the stage to greet his friends. Nut and Oyo were in tow. Ray gave his pal a huge hug and planted an affectionate kiss on the cheeks of Nut and Oyo.
Ray was overwhelmed by the moment and exclaimed to his friend “Bugger me Bryn (that’s merely rhetorical by the way) that was incredible… where did all this come from?”
Bryn explained “Nut and Oyo had been fascinated with our impromptu performance the other night. I explained about Male voice singing and they expressed a desire to learn”. He took a swig of his beer and continued “The thing sort of grew and we ended up going to Oyo’s place in Hua Hin with a gang of other girls who were also interested. Nut took a keyboard; she has a natural ear and can play like an angel. We spent three days in serious rehearsal”
And in serious bumming thought Ray but resisted the urge to express it.
“I taught them a basic repertoire whilst Oyo taught us some dance routines and sorted out the costumes.” Oyo was watching Bryn with an evident devotion.
Abe exclaimed “Wow mate I am impressed you taught your katoey chorale that repertoire in such a short time”
Ray looked at Nut holding tightly on to Bryn’s hand with an obvious affection. He smiled at her and declared “Nut your accompaniment was wonderful, you play beautifully with a great skill” Nut lowered her eyes with a shy satisfaction.
Jack asked “who did the marvelous choreography?” Oyo beamed a huge smile “it was me” he declared. Jack continued “it was splendid, very well done” Oyo was almost orgasmic with pleasure that his artistic talent had been recognised.
Mike had been unusually quiet all evening deep in thought, he finally spoke “you know, I think you may have something here…I can see great possibilities even if just for the novelty value”. He paused before continuing “If you polished it up a little I am certain I can get you bookings at some of the better venues in Bangkok”.
Bryn beamed a huge smile “yes I can do it …I remember when I was asked to conduct the Port Talbot Choir a few years ago…”
Realising his friend was about to launch into a flight of fancy Ray interrupted his flow “Bryn shut up for a minute and think about it”. Bryn looked at his two companions and seeing them smile, quietly answered “yes I am sure …with Nut and Oyo’s help we can rustle up a show”
The party eventually moved to a quieter bar outside the plaza. Jack and Abe were vying for the attention of a cute little serving girl, Poot was chatting animatedly to Nut and Mike was explaining some of his ideas to Oyo. This was the first opportunity Ray had to talk to his friend Bryn.
“Well old mate it is not what I intended when I bought you to Bangkok but you seem happy with those two.” Bryn looked at his pal and responded “Ray, I have never been so happy, Nut and Oyo are wonderful they really take care of me. I can not begin to describe the fun we have together.”
Ray was relieved not to receive a graphic visualization of the mechanics of their ménage a trios.
Bryn continued “I have had a lot of pleasure from singing over the years but I never thought music would ever make my arse so sore”
True to his word Mike got them their first booking the following week, a twenty minute spot at the Sheraton. Poot paid her own bar fine so she could accompany Ray to see his friend and the choir’s performance. It was a great success, the audience loved them. Mike had bought a journalist friend who published a favorable article next day in the Bangkok post. The article was well received and created a great deal of interest in the Bangkok expat community,
At the end of his holiday Ray returned to the UK alone. Bryn rented a condo with Nut and Oyo where every Monday evening the katoey chorale would turn up for choir practice.
The bookings came and within a short time Bryn and the Bangkok Ladyboy male voice choir were performing twice a week to packed audiences.
Jack and Abe, ever the astute businessmen were not ones to miss an opportunity. With Mike’s help they took a lease on one of the bars in Soi 4 that had become vacant. It had once been a pool bar so there was room for a decent stage. They renovated the premises to a high standard, renamed it the “Siam Sonata” and appointed an experienced manager to run the bar. They also engaged Bryn as assistant manager to ensure the continued involvement of his katoey chorus and to keep him out of mischief. Ray had visions of Bryn telling all and sundry how he once managed the busiest dockyard pub in Cardiff.
The Bangkok Lady Boy male voice choir with Nut as musical director was developing a reputation for the high standard of its music. They became the resident entertainment at Siam Sonata performing three evenings during the week and at least once at the weekend. Bryn remained the principle soloist but was training a couple of protégés to share the limelight (and the workload). Jack and Abe prudently employed Oyo as artistic director to organize the showgirls in their dance routines and to scout for new talent. On the evenings when the choir was performing elsewhere Oyo introduced some promising new artists from the Jazz and Classical world. Siam Sonata became a very popular venue and within a few months could attract international musicians visiting the city on their way through, to perform as guest artists.
Ray kept regular contact with Bryn during the six months until his next Suhkumvit sojourn. Bryn was happily ensconced with Nut and Oyo. He declared himself a very lucky man to have two such attentive and devoted companions. There were not many men fortunate to have two partners who functioned as lovers, housekeepers’ bodyguards and business associates. There was the added attraction of there always being that “little extra” to play with. He had clearly got over the loss of Katherine.
Bryn also informed him that the bar was becoming a popular attraction and the choir now had an ensemble of 12 singers. They even had a new choir blazer (probably in a pastel pink thought Ray). His friend spoke of a recording contract and a future tour of Europe. Ray dismissed this as typical bluster from Bryn but was nevertheless delighted that his friend was so settled and happy in his new life.
Back in the UK, Tom the conductor of the Tipton and district male voice choir received a letter from the (mythical) mining town in Australia where Ray’s (Imaginary) elderly aunt resided. It was an invitation to join in the towns centenary celebrations and to appear as guest conductor with the local choir. In a conversation with Tom’s wife Gladys, Ray described the delights of the 20 hour flight and subsequent 10 hour journey by Land Rover across the desert to get to the town. He also entertained her with amusing anecdotes about the sanitary arrangements and the spiders that lived beneath toilet seats. For some unknown reason Gladys convinced Tom that maybe he should go alone with Ray on this trip.
I am out of Bangkok for 3 days so sorry, no comments now.