'I have no regrets,' rogue Tenor Remigio Pereira says after O Canada stunt
Controversial change to anthem accomplished 'exactly what it was intended to do' singer says
When Remigio Pereira replaced a section of O Canada with his own lyrics at the July 12 MLB all-star game in San Diego, he knew it would "ruffle some feathers." But he never expected the fallout that ensued.
"I was hoping that people would wake up and start talking about the injustices that are going on… the social injustices that many people are facing," he told CBC News this week in his first interview since the incident.
People were definitely talking — and both the medium and message took a lot of heat.
Pereira, who was performing with his quartet the Tenors, changed two lines of Canada's national anthem during a solo in the group's televised performance.
He was supposed to sing, in French, the lines: "Car ton bras sait porter l'épée, Il sait porter la croix." (The corresponding section, in English, is: "With glowing hearts, we see thee rise, the True North strong and free.")
Instead, Pereira sang: "We're all brothers and sisters, all lives matter to the Great."
Pereira, who says he's being kicked out of the pop-opera group, interprets the French lines as "your arms can carry the cross and the sword."
He says he finds that "a little conflicting" because he "believes that we should all love each other and have peace in the world."
'God wanted it to happen'
When asked why he chose to change the Canadian anthem, which many hold sacred, on such a public platform, Pereira responded: "What it did was exactly what it was intended to do — to wake people up."
"It happened that day because God wanted it to happen that day."
He also described the moments just before he made the fateful decision, saying the word "Great" was meant to be capitalized and to refer to the "Creator."
According to Pereira, he composed the words "five minutes before going onstage."
"That's why my voice was quivering," he explained.
"My heart was beating through my chest. I didn't want anything to happen to the guys, which is why I didn't want them to know anything. Because if it goes down, it goes down on me. I'm OK with that."
'There was a lot of yelling'
During his controversial solo, Pereira also held up a sign that said "All Lives Matter" on one side, and "United We Stand" on the other.
The term "All Lives Matter" is controversial — seen as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement that many people argue willfully ignores the systemic racism the Black community faces, especially in the U.S.
Though the Tenors continued the performance like nothing had happened, in the dressing room afterwards, Pereira admitted "there was a lot of yelling."
"And asking why. And I explained why," he said. "They were really upset and wanted to kick me out of the group. They told me 'You have no more say in this.'"
The other Tenors released a statement immediately following the performance, referring to Pereira as a "lone wolf" who acted without their prior knowledge. They said they were "shattered" in an interview with CBC News following the incident.
Asked why he didn't tell the Tenors, whom he refers to as his "brothers," about his plans beforehand, Pereira said he knew he'd be told not to do it.
A representative for the Tenors said the group isn't commenting right now as they work through the situation.
Asked whether he would do anything differently, Pereira stated: "I have no regrets," though he later added: "I am sorry that it divided people instead of uniting them."
Back on tour
Advised to "stay low" by the group's publicity team after his stunt, Pereira posted a video apology on Facebook a few days later.
Still, he was dropped from a tour he was meant to start with Canadian guitarist Pavlo soon after the incident. The two have since reunited and will be performing four shows in Ontario starting Sept. 29.
Pavlo said it was the event promoters, not him, who pulled Pereira and have since allowed him to return.
"He means well," said Pavlo about Pereira and the anthem incident during a phone interview while on his way to South Korea for part of the tour.
"Obviously it was interpreted in different ways by different people."
Many Canadians were offended by the replaced words in the anthem and others viewed it as a stand against the BLM movement. Pereira said he was aware of the connotation that the term "All Lives Matter" carries, but employed it anyway, insisting those who use the phrase "hijacked the English language."
"My message wasn't a message to diminish anybody's voice, because I want their voice to be heard. It was a message to the establishment to let them know that all of us are important. And all voices need to be heard. And they're definitely not being heard."