My Basque Grandfather & His Music: From Lejos de Euskaria to The Texans are Ready
Julián Martínez de Villar: El Maestro Billarkoa

My grandparents, circa 1905, en route from Bilbao, capital of the Basque Country, Spain, to Mexico City and, ultimately, San Antonio, Texs.


Julián Martínez de Villar &

Basilisa Riva Pellón de Villar,

Julián Martínez de Villar, 1907
(25 October 1870 - 26 January 1944)
Welcome to, a site that discovers and shares musical compositions and arrangements by Julián Martínez Villar, my grandfather, who was born on October 25, 1870, in Llodio, Álava, a province within the Basque Country in the north of Spain, and who died January 26, 1944, in San Antonio, Texas. His father (my paternal great grandfather), Julián Martínez de la Ydalga y Abans, was a native of Bilbao and a career musician (Txistulari) employed by the municipality of Llodio on two occasions, the last being from 1879-1903, a 24-year period as Llodio's tamborilero (txistulari), as well as having other concurrent municipal employment there.1 My great-great grandfather, Francisco Martínez de la Ydalga y Pérez de Arrilucea, was a native of  Maestu, capital of the municipality of Arraia-Maeztu in the Basque province of Álava, and his wife, my great-great grandmother, Ángela Abans Guesala, was a native of Miravalles, Vizcaya. My grandfather's mother, Juliana Villar Izaguirre, was born in Gardea, a sector of Llodio, in  Álava, on February 16, 1841. Her father, José Antonio de Villar y Aldama, my great-great grandfather, and great-great grandmother, María Rosa de Izaguirre Isasi, as well as their respective grandparents (my 3rd great grandparents), Manuel Pablo de Villar y Murga, María Josefa de Aldama y Aguirre, José Izaguirre, and María Antonia Isasi, were also natives of Llodio. The family of my 4th great grandfather, Manuel de Villar y Arana, came from Beotegi to Llodio, both locales within the province of Alava.2

1,2 Grateful acknowledgement is made to Egoitz Bernaola Luxa, who, under the auspices of the Cofradía del Señor San Roque, Llodio, Alava, researched, wrote and shared these 
details from his larger, pre-publication biographical document in Spanish (October 2018).

The Man, His Music & His Times
His musical compositions reflected the cultural climate and trends of his times, as well as his various residencies, first in Bilbao (Vizcaya), then in Mexico City, later in Laredo, Texas, and ultimately in San Antionio, Texas. His first name never varied, but his last names, across cultures, languages, geographies, times and identity factors, together with artistic license, did. Some of  his early compositions were published using modified versions of Martínez Villar, and once in the United States, his compositions would be published under the name Julian M. DeVillar, as he was referred to on occasion in Spain; moreoever, he authored some early published compositions in Spain using this particular form of his surname, which was how it was used by his grandfather. It is my desire to share his musical compositions and cross-cultural journeys, even as I continue to discover them, and to shed a light, however faintly, on his life and influence, which spanned two centuries, experienced the final erosion of the Spanish Empire (1898), as well as the waning days of the Porfiriato (1907) and beginnings of the Mexican Revolution (1910), both WWI and WWII, and in-between them, the Great Depression, as well as the tragic Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), albeit safely in San Antonio, Texas, where my father, Alfonso Arturo (1918-1994), and his older brother, Carlos (1915-1991), were of age and recruited but did not enlist on any side. His eldest son, Julián M. Villar (hijo/Jr.), born January 13, 1896, in Bilbao, stayed in Mexico with his maternal uncle from Santander, José Riva Pellón, and aunt, from 1907 to December 1915, when he immigrated to Laredo, Texas, subsequently to  reside in San Antonio, Texas, where he died on January 27, 1967.
Diversity in Musical Genres
Aside from his compostions relating to his native Basque Country, many published in four volumes of "Albums I - IV" in 1904, he also composed waltzes, diverse types of "pasodobles," marches, Habaneras, mazurkas, polkas, a WWI US patriotic melody ("The Texans Are Ready"), a composition about the reigning Basque bullfighter "Cocherito de Bilbao" during the matador's heyday, and a primer on musical theory, among many others. In 1892, he published compositions relating to his adopted city of Bilbao: "El Arenal" and "A Orillas del Nervión." In 1894, his music theory primer, in which he applied a Question & Answer format, was published. These works remain accessible online, from WorldCat to, but particularlarly the Biblioteca Nacional de España.
 "Boga, Boga, Mariñela," the ubiquitous traditional Basque choral song depicting sailors rowing to "the Indies" (i.e., the Americas) and lamenting their distance from their beloved Basque shores  (see, & watch?v=cxG636HnoVw) is originally an anonymous composition. Nevertheless, it is my grandfather's, Julián Martínez Villar, 1904 lyrics and arrangement--that he dedicated to his "discípulo y amigo, Víctor de Chavarri y Anduiza," who was 16 years old at the time he was studying piano from my grandfather and who in 1920 would inherit the title Marquis of Triano--that are available in sheet music form in Spain, Continental Europe, the UK, the United States and many other parts of the globe from any number of suppliers, and that appears to be the earliest version published (see Biblioteca Nacional de España's website, bipa0000003893.html, for 1904 publication & copyright date). It was also included in Album 4 of his Cantos Vascongados (1904). For  lyrics in Basque, Spanish and French, see:,_Boga_(Traditional). The interpretations range from classical to rock, which show both the song's transgenerational ubiquity and deep cultural significance. ¡BOGA!  
Another popular Basque song that is associated with my grandfather is "Iru Damatxo," which was published in 1904 in his Album de Cantos Vascongados, vol. II (See Important Links & Notes for recorded version by Carlos Murguía, 1958). In some instances, his contemporary Eduardo Justo Morocoa Arbilla (1867-1959) is listed as author, but, again, the standard version available in sheet music and recordings, that include the one provided here, is that of Julián Martínez Villar--as is the case with my grandfather's "Boga, Boga, Mariñela"(1904) predating Jesus Guridi's 1913 version. Julián Martínez Villar's name and compositions continue to gain visibility even, somewhat ironically, in writings regarding the Philippines, due to his 1918 composition "El Mantón de Manila." The mantón is an embroidered shawl that emanated from the Canton region of China, reaching the west coast of Mexico via galleons setting out from the Philippines, and, once modified in Mexico, landing in Seville, where their reproduction and popularity crossed the Pyrenees into Europe during the 19th Century -- thus, illustrating a Trans-Pacific-to-Trans-Atlantic, cross-cultural textile craft and trade phenomenon  dating from the late 16th Century. This particular composition was dedicated to the "Women of Sevilla," the distribution center of the mantón.
Basque Religious Pilgrimages
His music-related travels within and outside of the Basque Country and Spain were numerous and diverse, even exceptional. Beginning in 1895 (Loyola Sanctuary) and  1896 (Aránzazu Sanctuary), they also include the historic and celebrated Basque 40-day pilgrimage that sailed on the  Midnight Sun in 1902 to the Holy Land, Egypt and Rome, during which he directed the Basque sextet musical group throughout the pilgrimage and its many, even daily, celebratory masses and events. Earlier, he had a major musical role in another momentous pilgrimage and religious celebration. The   year 1900  was the 600th anniversary of the founding of Bilbao, which coincided with the Canonical Coronation of Our Lady of Begoña, resulting in a series of Basque Country pilgrimages and a culminating celebration with the representative of Pope Leo XIII, Monsignor Samper, in attendance, and at which he presented a papal letter and religious gifts. That same evening, my grandfather, immediately following the introduction of the papal emissary, directed an orchestra in the Overture of Noces de Figaro by Mozart, among other classical musical works.  
Travels to Mexico and the United States
In 1907, he was contracted as the first director of the Basque Chorale (Orfeón Vasco) of the Centro Vasco in Mexico City, and directed its inaugural performance. Two years earlier, in 1905, he had arrived in Mexico to conduct an orchestra and had composed "Progreso y Libertad," a "tribute to the illustrious General D. Porfirio Díaz, President of the Republic of Mexico," with an illustration of the long-time ruler in profile on the cover of the sheet music., which was published in Spain and France. He and my grandmother, Basilisa Riva Pellón (Santander, Cantábria, Spain, 1882-1976; see image in Heading above), left Mexico with their  daughter, Guadalupe, who was born in Santander, Spain, for Texas in 1914, spurred North by the turmoil and uncertainties of the Mexican Revolution. Settling first in Laredo, Texas, where sons Carlos, Alfonso, and Jorge (1921-2013) were born, and where on July 19, 1921, he initiated his membership in the newly formed Laredo Council Knights of Columbus. He and his family ultimately resided permanently in San Antonio, Texas, just before his youngest child, María del Carmen (1924-1988) was born in Laredo. He dedicated his talents to directing orchestras at social events, playing piano, both classical and modern--including Gerswin's "Rhapsody in Blue" at the Aztec Theatre on February 24, 1929--providing piano accompaniment for international and national opera singers, composing, and teaching voice and piano.

Pilgrimage to Holy Land, Egypt and Rome, 1902. Grandfather Villar directed sextet musical group that accompanied 40-day trip to place 33rd "Our Father" plaque (Age that Christ died), but first plaque from Basque Country as well as in Basque language, in Church of the Pater Noster on Mount Olive in the Holy Land; also, commemoration of 25th anniversy of Pope Leo XIII, the Workers' Pope:  file:///C:/Users/rdevillar/Downloads/Dialnet-SobreElAitaGureaDeJerusalen-2004418.pdf

In 1894, published Teoria completa del solfeo : en preguntas y respuestas. See,%20Juli%C3%A1n/qls/bdh0000122272;jsessionid=BA5311F4D206F6730D1A0101E1FFA592

1. Basque Country, Spain, Cuban Habaneras; Zortzikos, Waltzes, Pasodobles, Mazurkas, etc.:
2. (p. 258 , Illustration of Sheet Music, J. Martínez Villar, 1905)
3.,%20Juli%C3%A1n/qls/bdh0000073475;jsessionid=C87F0E18424B71630FB0EC1EF97CCBBC ("Iru Damatxo," vol. 2, Album de Cantos Vascongados, 1904). Version recorded in 1958, Carlos Munguía, tenor.
4. Boga, Boga, Mariñela. Choral version by Oskorri 


1. "The Texans Are Ready," 1918 WWI patriotic song, resource/ihas.200201053.0/?sp=1.
2. See: Tin Pan Alley and the Philippines: American Songs of War and Love, 1898-1946 , A Resource Guide 
3. See: Revueltas in San Antonio and Mobile, by Robert Parker, 2002, in which performance on  Dec 16, 1926, by Lupe Medina de Ortega, accompanied by Silvestre Revueltas, violin, at St. Anthony Hotel, San Antonio, Texas, sings a zortziko composed by grandfather,  J. M. de Villar.

1. June 24, 1896,  ¡Nere Euskal-Errirá!, Zortziko competition, first prize, "best composition composed specifically for a complete 'tamborilero' band..." Judges referred to him as  Billarkoa, a representation of our surname in Basque and the basis for the name of this site that sheds light on his life and musical work.  
2. On Friday, October 25, 1907, the evening of my grandfather's 37th birthday, a benefit in the form of a "sumptuous artistic soirée" was organized by the Orfeón Vasco at the Gran Teatro Orrín, in Mexico City. Performances by Spanish stage actor Francisco Fuentes; the quintet Jordá-Rocabruna, whose co-founder, Barcelona-born Josep Rocabruna, was a major violinist (Metropolitan Opera in New York) and enjoyed decades of prominence and influence as first chair and director of various national orchestras in Mexico City. Lluís Jordá, Catalán-born pianist and composer of Zarzuelas, also influenced muscal expression in Mexico City in significant ways prior to returning to Catalonia at the outset of the Mexican Revolution. The Orfeón Catalán and Orfeón Vasco also performed, among other musicians. The photograph of my grandfather on this page is taken from the promotional literature announcing the soirée. 
VI.  Founded
Gran Academia de Santa Cecilia de Bilbao in 1899    Robert A. DeVillar, PhD   September-October 2015
Updated November 1-10, 2018 & March 13, 2019