The musical traditions of the Basque region of Spain have been preserved by Biarritz-based Oldarra. Singing songs from the region's seven provinces in their original dialect, the all-amateur, 40-man choral group blends a rich mixture of liturgical chants and songs written by sailors or shepherds. According to www.warner-classics.com, Oldarra "has not only achieved its full expressive potential but made a name for itself by virtue of the demands and originality of its work. The beauty of the colors and timbres of the singers' voices give its performances a richness and depth that are altogether exceptional." Telerama took a similar view, writing, "pure pleasure from this choir, powerful and deep."
Formed initially as a mixed choir, Oldarra, which translates as "fervor" or "impetus," has been an all-male group since 1963. Inaki Urtizaberera, who has served as artistic director since 1972, has brought a scholarly understanding of traditional Spanish and Slavic music to the choir. Trained in voice and choral conducting at Pamplona Conservatory in Navarra, Urtizaberera has taught traditional music at Bayonne Conservatoire, specializing in the playing of txistu or Basque flute. In addition to his work with Oldarra, Urtizaberera has conducted the Donosti Ereski Choir, with whom he placed first in an International Choral Competition and the Orchestre Regional De Bayonne-Cote Basque.
Released in 1998, Oldarra's album La Chant Basque featured a rich mixture of traditional tunes. In an interview shortly after the album's release, Urtizaberera explained, "The songs that make up this present recording are in the air that I have breathed since my childhood, in the wind that blows over the mountains, and in the rivers that flow down to the ocean." ~ Craig Harris