Not many people got to share the Queen’s private birthday party, sing for her, serve her and call the monarch their boss.
But that’s exactly what Kelly Leonard, Clinical Lead for Children’s Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy Services at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, is fortunate enough to have done.
Mother of three Kelly, 44, a former physical training instructor in the RAF, was able to meet members of the Royal Family on several occasions. Some of these were through the Military Wives Choirs events.
Made famous by TV celebrity Gareth Malone in the BBC TV series The Choir: Military Wives, Kelly co-founded the Military Wives Choir foundation charity and it has grown to a network of 75 choirs in military bases across the UK and overseas bringing women in the military community closer together through singing. Its initial aim was to help the wives and girlfriends of servicemen deployed to Afghanistan and continues to be a place of support as part of the extended military family.
Andy, 47, Kelly’s husband of 22 years and an Afghanistan veteran, is an examiner for helicopter instructors in the RAF after spending 17 years as a winchman in the RAF search and rescue force.
“I met the Queen and Prince Phillip, and other members of the Royal Family, on a couple of occasions and each one has been special,” said Kelly, who also received a kiss from Prince Harry as vice-captain of Team UK when she won four silver medals and two bronze medals at the Invictus Games in the Netherlands in April.
“However, the most surreal experience was when I was chosen to sing for the Queen at her private birthday party hosted at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s house on the Queen’s actual birthday – April 21, 2012.
“I was one of six of the original Military Wives Choir singers who sang the Jubilee song ‘Sing’ to the Queen. It was the first time she would hear it prior to the Diamond Jubilee celebration later that year where the full choir performed it on stage at the Buckingham Palace concert.
“There were other artists there such as Gary Barlow, a selection of the cast from one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals and some solo artists. The Queen was accompanied by other members of the Royal Family.
“After performing the song to her in the large reception room, the Queen then came to talk to us individually and asked me if we had to do a lot of practice. I replied ‘yes Ma’am’ and then she said to me ‘Your part was very high wasn’t it?!’ and smiled at me.
“At one point after we had all performed our tributes to the Queen, we formed a circle around her, and the catering staff wheeled in a large birthday cake.”
“We sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her and it was lovely to see how animated and happy she was as she cut the cake and waved at us to stop! I remember thinking that if she is telling us to stop, we should as she is the Queen!”
“That evening will always stay with me; the fact I got to share that birthday moment with her is still so surreal.”
Kelly was part of the choir which performed at on the stage at the Buckingham Palace celebration in London when 10 choirs contributed to the Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber single written to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.
The single Sing, which went on to be voted Classical Brits single of the year for 2012, features the Military Wives as the backing track and was also used to represent the UK at the stadium opening.
Following the series, the song Wherever You Are became the 2011 UK singles chart Christmas number one, selling 556,000 copies within a week of launch.
Not surprisingly, Kelly, who lives in Ellerdine, Telford, was keen to add her tribute to the late monarch to those from other Trust staff.
“I pledged an oath of allegiance at 19 when signing up to serve the Queen in the RAF. Despite leaving the RAF my allegiance has never changed,” added Kelly.
“I, Kelly Leonard, swear by almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, her heirs and successors, in person, Crown and dignity against all enemies. I will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, her heirs and successors, and of the air officers and other officers set over me.”
“She has been a constant in many of our lives. I have the utmost respect for her, I pledged my allegiance to her and she will be forever missed as an extended family figure, a role model and a boss.”
Robin McMahon, Advanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, met the Queen in June when he received the Platinum Jubilee Medal, which was awarded to serving frontline members of the police, fire, emergency services, prison services and the Armed Forces to mark the Royal jubilee.
He said: “I was privileged enough to meet the Queen in her Golden Jubilee Year. Her passing is most sad and emotional for all, yet should be marked as a celebration of a wonderful life in service. God Save the King.”
Robin is a Staff Officer (Medical) with 11 Security Force Assistance Brigade, based in Aldershot. As a secondary duty he is the defence specialist advisor for paediatrics covering paediatric nursing provision and innovation across the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (RAF).
He is an Army reservist and can be recalled in times of need to join operations alongside regular soldiers.