The booming “voice of God” would bellow from somewhere in the darkness, and try as you might to train your eyes through the flicker of candlelights, you would never see where the voice was coming from.
For seven years, that voice at the annual True Concord Voices & Orchestra “Lessons and Carols by Candlelight” concerts in several Tucson churches was Arizeder Urreiztieta.
“He would read the vignettes from the Christmas story, hidden in the back of the church,” recalled True Concord’s music director Eric Holtan. “You would hear this booming, powerful voice say ‘In the beginning …’”
“Arizeder was what we called a ‘basso profundo,’ which means he was one of those guys who could go to the outer reaches of the bass range. There’s just not a lot of human beings who can go that low.”
Urreiztieta, who debuted with True Concord in 2008 as the bass soloist in Mozart’s “Requiem,” performed his last concert with the ensemble three years ago as his years-long battle with lymphoma started to affect his breathing.
On Aug. 15, after 12 years on cancer’s roller coaster, Urreiztieta died at home surrounded by his wife, Dianne Iauco, and other family members. He was 62.
Urreiztieta was born in Lyndhurst, England, and came to Tucson with his mother and siblings when he was 8 years old.
He played violin in the Tucson Junior Strings through high school and considered studying violin at the University of Arizona before changing his focus to music theory and composition, his wife said.
He went on to earn a master’s degree in vocal performance from Indiana University before returning to Tucson as the Arizona Daily Star’s music critic from 1985 to 1988.
“When he was music critic, he had a lot of people who really liked him and liked his writing,” said his wife of nearly 30 years.
Urreiztieta left journalism and Tucson in the late 1980s when he was invited to join the Grammy-winning San Francisco-based Chanticleer vocal ensemble.
He met Iauco, a soprano from New York, when Chanticleer was performing on the East Coast. The pair married a couple of years later.
In addition to Chanticleer, Urreiztieta performed in 31 states and six world capitals in a vocal career that included guest appearances with the New York Philharmonic and a six-year run as a soloist with New York City’s Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.
In addition to performing with True Concord, he also was a regular vocalist at Tucson’s St. Philips in the Hills Episcopal Church.
Russian repertoire was his specialty, said Iauco and Holtan. He was so fluent in the language that he often coached his fellow True Concord vocalists on Russian and Slavic diction.
In addition to his music career, Urreiztieta worked a number of jobs in communications, including with the New York Philharmonic, Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, the University of Arizona and Raytheon.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Belén Luisa; siblings Irel, Lirain and Izaro Urreiztieta; and many nieces and nephews.
A Requiem Mass will be celebrated at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23, at St. Philips in the Hills, 4440 N. Campbell Ave., followed by interment Saturday, Aug. 24, at Holy Hope Cemetery.