Bartender-turned-vicar raises spirits with online lockdown singalongs

Jessica Frank-Keyes, PA
·3 min read

A bartender-turned-vicar has said his online “Pimm’s and Hymns” singalong sessions have been “a real light in the darkness” during lockdown.

Father Lee Taylor, vicar at St Collen’s Church in Llangollen, North Wales, invited his flock to join him for a Facebook live singalong when his pews fell silent due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The sessions, which launched in March 2020 and take place every Sunday, have attracted not just locals but songbirds from as far away as South Africa, Canada and Brazil.

“People started to share about it and the online audience just exploded,” Mr Taylor, 43, told the PA news agency.

“I get phone calls, emails and letters from people all over the world, saying, ‘You’ve lifted my spirits’, and asking me to pray for their loved ones who are sick with the virus.

“I started the sessions as I was trying to think of ways to bring comfort reassurance and cheer to people at home.

“While I can’t hear people joining in, I feel them there with me in the room.”

(Father Lee Taylor/Andrei Daniel/PA)
(Father Lee Taylor/Andrei Daniel/PA)

Belting out everything from Abide With Me to Pack Up Your Troubles, the vicar, who lives with his partner of 14 years, Fabiano Duarte, is known for pouring a glass of wine or a cocktail before performing for his Facebook congregation.

“I like to keep a libation on the piano,” he told PA.

“When we started, people tuning in could see a glass of wine one week and a gin and tonic the next, so began to join in and have a drink with me.

“Soon, this became a discussion in the Facebook comments and people would send in photos of themselves with a tipple, singing along.

“I’ve got a bit carried away on the piano after a few drinks and played all the wrong notes a couple of times – which is always quite funny. It’s joyful, really.”

(Father Lee Taylor/PA)
(Father Lee Taylor/PA)

Mr Taylor, who hosts an annual summer garden party known as Pimm’s and Hymns, said that when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, it seemed natural for him to recreate the sessions online.

“Everyone comes to the summer parties and we have several jugs of Pimm’s and gather around the piano,” he said.

“It didn’t take place in 2020, so I did a special live stream instead and took my piano into the garden.”

(Father Lee Taylor/PA)
(Father Lee Taylor/PA)

Mr Taylor qualified as a priest in 2012, living in Oxford and London before relocating to North Wales in December 2018.

He told PA: “Losing the churches and restricting the number of people at funerals has been very painful, and during the first lockdown, people were really missing communal singing.

“I got some elderly people set up on the internet and sent out instructions via email, so they could watch the live stream singalongs.

“People were soon chatting through the comments and it felt like we were all connected.

“I wanted to raise spirits through music and it’s been a real light in the darkness.”