In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Manitoba government laid out plans for a video to reflect on the effects of the novel coronavirus, complete with a song commissioned from noted singer-songwriter Sierra Noble.
But the project, revealed in documents obtained by The Canadian Press, was abandoned. And while the song has remained out of the public realm so far, Noble says it may one day be released.
“We may do something with it in the future. We may rework it a little bit,” Noble said Saturday in an interview from Nashville, Tenn.
“No firm plans at this moment but it is a song that we really love and should be out there.”
The video was to be a “virtual reflection/memorial event” in early 2021, the provincial Finance Department said in a response to a freedom of information request.
The project had a working title — “Manitoba Tribute Video.”
As part of the project, the government was to pay $13,000 for a song composed by Noble. The government would have exclusive use of the song for 12 months so it could be played at events or news conferences, and in audio and video distribution.
A contract was drawn up and signed, although the name of the video production company was withheld from the freedom of information release.
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The project came as Manitoba hospitals struggled to deal with a surge in COVID-19 patients. Public health orders had been imposed in November, December and January to severely limit business openings and household gatherings. Then-premier Brian Pallister implored people not to host holiday get-togethers.
The province put together other video projects to entertain people at home, including musical performances recorded at the legislature and streamed online to replace the traditional in-person holiday open house.
At the same time, the government was planning the video with Noble’s song alongside a larger media campaign aimed at encouraging people to stay home.
“Today, as each jurisdiction faces unique circumstances and fatigue sets in, a made-in-Manitoba approach to the ‘Stay Home’ message is required,” states a project briefing presentation from early 2021, also obtained under the freedom of information law.
The song was written and recorded by Noble and songwriting partner Rusty Robot. The video production company reached out to them.
“What was communicated to me was that they were contracted to produce a video thanking front-line workers,” Noble said.
“We were a bit hesitant at first because neither of us are supporters of the Conservative government, but knowing that it was to thank the nurses, and that was the project, it felt really important to us to be a part of that.”
Noble described the song — titled “Unforgettable” — as a “heartstring song” with an uplifting chorus.
“I sent it to one of my best friends who’s a nurse and was in one of the COVID units and she was like, ‘I couldn’t even get through it’. So, I think we did an OK job on it.”
The song was written and recorded, but the Manitoba Tribute Video plan was abandoned as the pandemic continued.
“There were many moving parts during the pandemic,” the premier’s office said in a prepared written statement this week.
“Shifting COVID-related context resulted in government pivoting away from early content investments as the strategy necessitated by the pandemic evolved.”
Noble gained prominence while performing at the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies. Noble’s songs have been used in television shows such as “One Tree Hill” and “Parenthood.”
Noble is working on a new collection of songs and hoping to release an album next year, following a tour of Australia this fall.
The Finance Department took more than a year to respond to the freedom of information request and initially refused to release documents related to the project. It later relented after The Canadian Press filed a complaint with the provincial ombudsman’s office.