Diane Wells
The Whole Note, Canada
April 2016

Alex Roth’s A Time to Dce is divided into four major sections, each r senting a season and time of day, with each featuring a different soloist: s for Spring Morni, tenor in Summer Noon, alto for Autumn Evening and bass in Winter Night. Adding choir and orchestra, the hour-long cantata, uses almost the same instrumentation as Bach’s Magnificat; thus the two works were paired for the cantata’s premiere performance by Ex Cathedra in 2012.

With texts drawn from biblical verse as well as well-loved poets such as Blake, Dickinson, Donne, Manley Hopkins, Marlowe and Yeats, a fertile groundwork is provided for a great variety of expression in the music. The piece opens with the bass and choir singing from Ecclesiastes (To everything there is a season). Through Roth’s deft characterization, soprano Grace Davidson evokes the beauty of spring; tenor Samuel Boden the romance and sensuality of summer, alto Matthew Venner the ripeness of autumn and bass Greg Skidmore the gravity of winter. All come together for the marvellous Epilogue followed by an exubert After-dance in which Roth expects the singers to hand-clap as well as actually dance.

The other pieces included on the recording are a little more conventional and reserved, though still lovely; Roth’s Magnificat and Nunc dimittis is set for a smaller choir with a chamber organ part for left hand only; Men and Angels, for unaccompanied choir, showcases Ex Cathedra’s thoughtful and meticulous delivery.