The theme of the song is the story of the Nativity with the refrain emphasising the theological interpretation that ‘Verbum caro factum est’ - ‘The Word was made flesh’. This is the fundamental meaning of the events in Bethlehem both at the time of Jesus’ birth and for the present.
The carol is simplicity itself. William Kenneth Fulton’s (1981) dissertation provided me with analytical information on this carol. The music beings with a setting of the refrain in four parts. Walton has used the Mixolydian mode in A (scale based on A with F#, C# and G natural). However he does make use of the G# in the progress of the music.
The verses are written in A Lydian mode (scale based on A with F#, G#, C# and D#). There is a prominent octave leap at the beginning of each verse. The first three stanzas are presented by sopranos, tenors and sopranos respectively using virtually the same melody. Each time this is followed by the refrain. The final stanza is sung by the full (S.A.T.B.) choir. The carol closes with the refrain and a repeated ‘Verbum caro’. The harmony makes considerable use of parallel fourths and fifths.
In a letter dated 9 October 1972 from La Mortella, Forio d’Ischia William Walton remarked to Malcolm Arnold, ‘I’m glad you like the S.A.T.B piece [the carol ‘All this Time’] I’m getting to like it a bit myself & so[,] he writes me, does the great B. himself.’ There is no doubt the ‘great B’ was in fact Benjamin Britten. I was unable to find the reference in The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten, 1913-1976, Volume 5, (2010) edited Donald Mitchell.
Over the years there have been a number of recordings of William Walton’s ‘All this Time.’ At present there are 10 listed in the Arkiv CD database. The earliest, in 1972, was by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford conducted by Simon Preston. (Argo ZRG 725) This was part of an LP dedicated to Walton’s Church Music. S.W. writing in The Gramophone (November 1972) notes that the carol has already become popular by its inclusion in the then recent Carols for Choirs 2. Christ Church was the where the young Walton was admitted aged 10, so this album was an appropriate present for his 70th birthday.
In 1987 a fascinating album of Christmas music by Holst and Walton was issued by Nimbus records (NI 5098). Once again it featured the choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, this time conducted by Stephen Darlington. It is still available from record shops and online. The carol was included in the Chandos ‘complete’ cycle of Walton’s music in 1991 (CHAN 8998). It was coupled with the other carols, the Coronation Marches (1937) and (1953) and In Honour of the City of London (1937) as well as some of the liturgical works. Most recently it has been featured on A York Yuletide: The Choir of York Minster with the musical director Robert Sharpe. (Regent, REGCD467). There is currently (accessed November 2015) a good version of ‘All this Time’ on YouTube sung by the Finzi Singers conducted by Paul Spicer.
Craggs, Stewart R, William Walton: A Catalogue (Oxford University Press, 1990)
Ed. Craggs, Stewart R, William Walton: Music and Literature (London, Ashgate, 1999)
Fulton, William Kenneth, Selected Choral Works of William Walton (Ph.D. Dissertation, Texas Technical University 1981)
Smith, Carolyn J., William Walton: A Bio-Bibliography (Westport, Greenwood Press, 1988)
Tierney, Neil, William Walton: His Life and Music, (London, Robert Hale, 1984)