Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Tenor who altered O Canada lyrics known for eccentric opinions

Until Remigio Pereira altered the Canadian national anthem in San Diego, his eyebrow-raising opinions drew little attention.

Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for The Princess Grace Foundation-USA

The Canadian tenor whose politically charged changes to the national anthem have triggered a chorus of condemnation is known for his passionate personality and eyebrow-raising opinions on topics ranging from vaccines to the shape of the Earth.

Until Tuesday, Remigio Pereira's opinions did not garner much attention beyond his Facebook followers.

But when Mr. Pereira reached into his jacket to pull out a card emblazoned with the words "All Lives Matter" and altered the lyrics of O Canada as he and the three other members of the Tenors sang the anthem before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in San Diego, he hit a sour note that is still ringing.

Story continues below advertisement

In the group's on-field performance at Petco Park, Mr. Pereira sang, "We're all brothers and sisters, all lives matter to the great." The normal lyric is "With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the True North strong and free."

Afterward, the Tenors released a statement saying he acted as a "lone wolf" and would not be performing with the group until further notice.

The federal government was displeased with Mr. Pereira.

"The national anthem is a treasured Canadian symbol," Christine Michaud, communications director with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, said on Wednesday in an e-mail. "Mr. Pereira's change to the national anthem to further his political views is inappropriate and disrespectful."

Vega, a Vancouver-based nutritional supplement company, politely distanced itself from Mr. Pereira and the Tenors after social-media users noticed that Vega was mentioned on their Twitter profiles. Vega said it had ended its "ambassador program" with the group last year and would ask for the profiles to be changed.

On Wednesday, Mr. Pereira acknowledged the uproar, posting a recorded statement on Twitter entitled "Black Lives Do Matter."

"This was not a political statement," the recording began. "I don't agree with killing. So if I don't agree with killing, it means I don't agree with black people dying. … No disrespect whatsoever to Black Lives Matter, because black lives do matter. They most definitely do."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Pereira is one of four members of the Tenors, who perform songs ranging from pop tunes to opera arias and have multiple albums to their credit.

In an interview with CBC Television on Wednesday, two of the tenors – Fraser Walters and Victor Micallef – reiterated their heartfelt apology and emphasized they were caught off-guard by Mr. Pereira's actions.

Talking about the immediate aftermath of the performance, Mr. Walters said, "we were just so shocked and anyone . . . (listening to us) would have seen many different emotions come out over the hour and half we were in that room talking and arguing and trying to understand what happened and how that coveted opportunity we worked so hard to create was essentially hijacked by one person's beliefs."

Mr. Micallef said he felt "disgust" at what had happened.

"Our music is everything to us. We want to get back to that."

A biography on the Tenors website says Mr. Pereira began performing as a self-taught guitarist in local rock bands in his teens.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Pereira's Facebook page, which remained public even as the uproar over his rogue balladry continued, included posts decrying corporate and government behaviour and appearing to defend flat-Earth theories.

"Why are we holding on tight to an idea that was embedded into us at an early age via the same system that brings you forced vaccinations, who has just passed a new law not requiring GMO food labelling," says one July 10 comment, which was posted in a flat-Earth-related discussion thread and now appears to have been removed.

Toronto-based composer and producer Jack Lenz has worked with the Tenors and was watching television when the altered anthem was performed.

Mr. Lenz said he felt a stab of compassion for Jeffrey Latimer, a long-time acquaintance and the group's manager. "You have to have nerves of steel to bring a group like this to the attention of the world, which he has done," he said.

"When I heard about [the backlash] last night, I felt so sorry for them all – because I know they are such well-intentioned guys," he added.

Asked to describe Mr. Pereira, Mr. Lenz described a man who is funny, compassionate and considerate of those around him. "He's always been the guy who was so passionate, so gregarious. He's always been one of the guys who had tons of personality … Always the guy in my experience who was kind, compassionate, just a sweetheart."

Mr. Lenz said he never witnessed any obvious tension between members of the group.

A fan site for the Tenors includes a section in which members are asked to describe their fellow songsters in three to five words. All three other members of the group refer to Mr. Remigio as "passionate," with Clifton Murray rounding out his description of the singer with "fiery, creative, hopeless romantic."

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨