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Ottawa priest's dream of Christmas album becomes a reality after a few rough notes


  • December 23, 2017

OTTAWA – For years, Fr. Vincent Pereira, an Ottawa priest and canon lawyer, mused about producing a Christmas CD, perhaps featuring one of his own musical compositions.

The pastor of St. Theresa’s Parish in downtown Ottawa and Judicial Vicar of the Ottawa archdiocese’s marriage tribunal had been composing hymns in his native tongue since the early days of his priesthood in southern India.

Little did he know that turning his dream into a Christmas reality would occur only after receiving arduous lessons in copyright law, royalty payments and audio production.

“Even ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ is copyrighted!” said Pereira.

But through trial and error, and lots of perseverance, the CD was produced and arrived for sale on Dec. 8. Not quite a Christmas miracle, but close.

A year ago, Pereira composed a version of “Ave Maria” in Latin that he someday hoped to see performed and recorded. His dream began to gel when Rachael Dillman, a Vancouver-raised soloist, who began singing at weddings at the age of seven, moved to Ottawa and joined his congregation a few years ago.

“Rachael appeared on the scene gifted by God with a terrific voice,” Pereira said. “That solidified my thinking to look into a CD.”

Since moving to Ottawa, Dillman, a civil servant, has sung at events on Parliament Hill, at a political convention and at prime ministerial events during her brief stint working in the Prime Minister’s Office. She also sings at weddings and other sacred events.

The final piece of the CD puzzle fell into place when, as Pereira says, God sent him a deacon for his parish “and he also happened to be a musician.”

So last summer, Pereira, Dillman and Deacon Guy Dacquay selected 17 pieces — hymns and a few popular Christmas songs — and composed a script to be narrated by Pereira for a CD entitled Sing the Story of Christmas.

“Father has a great voice, an Orson Welles voice,” Dillman said. “He gives Morgan Freeman a run for his money.” 

With the help of parish organist Shane Fair, who accompanied Dillman on the more traditional hymns, Dacquay’s accompaniment on guitar and audio engineer Armando Prini, who has a state-of-the-art audio and video recording studio, the team began recording in earnest during the fall.

All was coming together beautifully for a planned release at Advent as a fundraising effort for the parish. Then they hit a snag.

They had no idea about the process to secure rights to the songs and they couldn’t get CDs pressed without first completing the rights process with the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency. 

Researching the rights to each song was time consuming, involving extensive document searches. Then royalty payments had to be made up front, based on the number of CDs to be made. It was taking forever.

“That was a huge learning lesson,” said Pereira. 

Learning that even “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” was copyrighted “boggled my mind,” said Pereira.

Dillman said a “bunch of stuff came up” in the course of production in addition to the copyright difficulties. “It’s a miracle this got done.”

So Advent came and the parish had no CDs. But days later the parish received their 500 CDs, of which more than half were spoken for before officially going on sale.

“The moral of our story is God calls us when we are most busy,” Pereira said. “He doesn’t call us when we’re on the sofa sleeping.” 

Dillman’s excited about the CD. “It gives you such a warm feeling,” she said, adding that the CD has the “world premiere” of Pereira’s “Ave Maria.”

“Now we know the tricks of the trade,” said Pereira.

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