Calgary

Didsbury seniors dedicate original song to Barbra Streisand and get her attention

A Didsbury seniors group wrote an original song titled Don't Look Back and it was shared on Barbra Streisand's Facebook page.

'Barbra has heard the song. She loves it,' says music therapist

Barbra Streisand calls song written for her by Alberta seniors 'sweet'

CBC News Calgary

8 months ago
1:20
These Alberta seniors spent a year writing a song for Barbra Streisand, and Babs herself took notice 1:20

Barbra Streisand has been the recipient of Emmy, Tony, Oscar and Grammy awards for her decades-long career, but residents at the Didsbury Continuing Care Centre found a different way to honour their favourite singer. 

They wrote her an original song — and when Babs heard it, her team got in touch.

Residents Brenda Jones, Noella Paul, Val Leopold, Paul Harrison and Victoria Bartram wrote Don't Look Back for Streisand with the care centre's music therapist, Kelly Kalden.

They had previously composed parodies in the music therapy program, and rewrote the lyrics to songs, including Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues.

But Don't Look Back is their first crack at writing an original number, and it is intended to be relatable for listeners both young and old, Jones told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.

"This song is just — it's brilliant," said Jones.

"It brought us all together, and we hope that the world will always hear this song and feel a lot better, because everyone has felt alone in a lifetime. I know I have. And I'm sure everybody else has."

Streisand takes notice

When Alberta Health Services heard about the project, it offered to produce a video of Kalden singing it for the residents.

When that video hit the web, Streisand was tagged in it — over and over, Kalden said — until they head from her team.

"Eventually I get a message from one of Barbra's staff members, and he said Barbra has heard the song, she loves it," Kalden said. 

"[They said] she is so happy, so grateful … and she would like to share the song on her Facebook and her Twitter accounts."

According to Kalden, Streisand's recognition delighted the residents, who spent about a year writing the piece.

"I think this is more than we could have ever asked for," Kalden said.

"Having her acknowledgement, and just having her acknowledge how much she enjoys it, and how grateful she is for this group."

Not the last song

Since Don't Look Back was completed, it has been entered into the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, which was started in 1997 and offers over $300,000 in cash and prizes. The songwriters also hope it gets picked up on the radio.

It's the culmination of a writing process that was personal for the group; Kalden said they drew upon their own lives for inspiration.

"It really was a group effort, and they did such a good job. They were so good at it. I can't emphasize that enough," Kalden said.

Members Harrison and Bartram died this year, but Jones said the others plan to continue making music through the therapy program — though it is a lengthy and complex artistic process.

"We will do another song eventually, but it took a year for us to do this one, so I'm not holding my breath. It's like a jigsaw puzzle; you put a piece in, then you take it out," Jones said.

"This song was a group of effort, not only one person. I feel that in my experience, people I know — they inspired me."


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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