Ottawa

Family, friends defend Remigio Pereira over anthem discord

Family and school friends of Ottawa-raised Remigio Pereira are coming to his defence, following the uproar that followed changes he made to the national anthem during the Major League Baseball all-star game Tuesday night.

Aunt of Ottawa-raised Remigio Pereira says Tenor's calling is to spread music and joy, not anger

Singer Remigio Pereira of The Tenors perform onstage in Phoenix on April 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Mike Moore/Getty Images)

Family and school friends of Ottawa-raised Remigio Pereira are coming to his defence, following the uproar that followed changes he made to the national anthem during the Major League Baseball all-star game Tuesday night.

During the on-field performance at San Diego's Petco Park, a line in the anthem during Pereira's solo was changed to include the words "all lives matter." The statement is a controversial response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which campaigns against racism and police brutality directed toward the black community.

His fellow Tenors issued a quick apology, saying he acted as a "lone wolf" and he would not be performing with the group until further notice.

The Tenors, shown on the scoreboard, perform during the Canadian National Anthem prior to the MLB baseball All-Star Game, in San Diego on July 12, 2016. (Gregory Bull/AP)

Pereira was born in Boston but grew up in Ottawa, going to St. Augustine Elementary School as well as Notre Dame High School.

His aunt, Celina Remigio Pereira, spoke to CBC Ottawa from her home in Gatineau.

"Me, I find it's a message of peace," she said, in French. "I don't know if it was the good moment to say it ... But for me it was a message of peace. It was not anything bad. I find that the world should understand that." 

Celina Remigio Pereira displays a book with her nephew's image. She says his message during his rendition of the national anthem at the MLB all-star game was one of "peace." (Mario Carlucci)

Despite a busy schedule of international engagements and concerts, she said Pereira performed at his uncle's recent funeral in the United States. He was a model child, performing music with his father and uncles, and wanted to spread joy with his music, and would not have wanted to incite anger or spread political messages, she said. 

School friends, also describe Pereira as good natured, funny and musically gifted. 

As the social media storm grew, Pereira took to social media to explain himself, including these posts:

Remigio Pereira's tweets following his decision to change lyrics in Oh Canada at the MLB all-star game performance Tuesday.

Pereira, who describes himself as vegan in at least one social media profile, has also used the phrase "all lives matter" in a previous animal welfare post on Facebook.

Chemayne Micallef, a close friend and pianist who has collaborated with Pereira, says she's horrified at how quickly people jumped to conclusions on social media about his intentions. Even more troubling, she says, is how his band mates treated him.

"He's devastated that The Tenors - his band mates, and so-called brothers, literally typed out that social media message in front of him while he begged for minimal input in the message to simply express his intent for a call for unity. They encouraged uproar to escalate when they could have clarified his intent," Micallef wrote in an email to CBC Wednesday.

In a Facebook post, Micallef said Pereira is not one to spread division.

"Remi is a good man and I have read such horrible things cast at him like he is some disgraced criminal. This is exactly what his point was. Look how two-faced the world is, no one will defend, no one stands as brothers and sisters anymore, everyone condemns and no one forgives ... There should be no sides to take," she posted.

Micallef told CBC Ottawa she's eager to clear up the confusion and wants to set the record straight for the sake of her friend.

For his part, on Wednesday evening, Pereira posted an emotional message on Soundcloud titled "Black Lives Do Matter." 

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