A bartender turned vicar regularly hosts ‘Pimm’s and Hymns” online singalong sessions where he pours himself a tipple ready for a hearty sing-song.

When his pews fell silent because of Covid-19 restrictions outlawing congregational singing indoors, Father Lee Taylor invited his flock to join him live on Facebook instead.

The 43-year-old vicar at St Collen’s Church in Llangollen holds weekly online parties every Sunday at 6pm, and it not only attracts locals, but songbirds from as far away as South Africa and Brazil.

Belting out everything from Abide With Me to Pack Up Your Troubles, the vicar, who has lived in Llangollen with his partner-of-14-years, manager Fabiano Duarte, 44, for two years, says the online audience exploded.

Father Lee, who looks after four Anglican churches, as part of the Church of Wales, said: “People were soon watching from America, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, and all over the UK.”

Live streaming performances on the parish Facebook page, while the clergyman, who became a vicar in 2012, is keen to pay homage to the Almighty, his living room performances are more convivial than his usual sermons.

Known for pouring himself a glass of wine or even a cocktail, before tinkling the ivories for his Facebook flock, he said: “I like to keep a libation on the piano.

“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.

Lee in his church, St Collen, in Llangollen

“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,” he said.

“People say, ‘Oh, it’s a Les Dawson moment!’ It’s joyful, really.”

Calling the sessions, ‘From the Mission Halls to the Music Halls,’ while there is always a core of 25 to 30 supporters for the singalongs, sometimes hundreds of people have tuned in.

“People started to share about it and the online audience just exploded,” said Father Lee, who grew up in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

And, despite his committed Christian beliefs, he does not stick strictly to the hymn book.

Inspired by the Victorian music hall songs his grandmother used to sing with him, Lee began performing classics, including It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.

“These are great songs that were designed for communal singing,” he said.

He also takes prayer and song requests and has even found himself singing, ‘Happy Birthday.’

“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,” he said.

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

“And I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed with letters and Christmas cards, which I think really shows that they have made a difference to people.

“Music is so powerful and even more so at a time when you can’t sing with other people.”

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

Singing in youth choirs growing up, Father Lee started learning to play the organ aged 13 and spent a summer in his teens at the San Francisco Conservatoire of Music in the USA, after a relative paid for him to study there.

A self-taught vocalist, he said: “I love choral music and music hall, which my grandmother introduced me to and is great to sing along to.”

Brought up Roman Catholic, despite his strong faith, Father Lee was drawn to Anglicanism, which he found “more accepting” – although it took him a while to commit to a religious path.

He said: “As a youngster, I wanted to rebel against tradition, but I had also started to think for myself more.

“I felt Catholicism was too judgemental, especially about issues like same-sex relationships, which I fully support.”

Father Lee Taylor has been singing to his congregation in lockdown. PA REAL LIFE

“I’m a great advocate of same-sex marriage, being in a civil partnership myself and I felt the Church of England was more progressive,” he explained.

“I’m definitely what you would call a liberal priest!”

Studying theology at the University of Lampeter in mid-Wales, where he was a choirmaster, he went on to take a “horrible job” in a call centre in Bolton, as well as pulling pints and bashing out music hall hits on the organs and pianos of the town’s working men’s clubs.

Then, in 2002, he moved to London and took a job in Southwark Cathedral, where he met his now partner Fabiano, who worked in the refectory.

Heading to Oxford in 2010 to ordain as a priest, he qualified in 2012 – working in Churches in London and the South East, before relocating to North Wales in December 2018.

Feeling “very well supported” by his community, he has delivered special sermons for LGBTQ+ history month, even blessing the graves of the ladies of Llangollen – two upper-class 18th Century Irish women, who moved to the town and were allegedly romantically involved.

“Llangollen is a very accepting place and there are lots of LGBTQ+ people living here,” Lee said.

“It’s also known as the festival capital of Wales and hosts the annual Llangollen International Eisteddfod, a large international music festival, in July each year.

“People come to it from all over the world, which is wonderful for me, as I love to express my faith through music.”

Lee pictured in his church

Father Lee, founder of a performance troupe called the Collen Players and also host to an annual summer garden party known as ‘Pimm’s and Hymns,’ says that when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, it seemed natural for him to recreate the jovial 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.”

With the church remaining an important part of Llangollen’s 4,000-strong community, Father Lee was also very keen to find a way to keep people positively connected.

The community gathers to enjoy a sing along

He said: “Closing 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,” he said.

“It’s been a great success.

“People have made friends online and kept in touch,” he concluded.

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