In Hubert Parry's (1848-1918) choral work "There is an Old Belief", there is a marking in a few places that just reads "Tempo". The first time it happens after a ritard, following a fermata. At the same time as the "Tempo" marking, there is a time signature change from 3/2 to 2/2. This marking is repeated later in the piece after a ritard, but with a lowercase t "tempo".

The reason I'm asking this question is because I have heard different recordings of this piece (and seen different editors' opinions) where one of two things happen: at the time change, the director changes from a quarter note beat to a half note beat (quarter=70bpm changing to half=70bpm), effectively doubling the tempo. Alternatively, the tempo goes back to its original state.

I haven't ever encountered a marking in a score that just read "Tempo"--it's usually "a tempo" or "Tempo I" or "Tempo Primo", etc.


  • The conductor was beating quarters in the 3/2 section, i.e. beating six? Or should that be 3/4? Feb 14, 2023 at 18:48
  • The first section is conducted in a double-beat 3/4 pattern (because it's written in 3/2 but at such a slow tempo)
    – Steven
    Feb 14, 2023 at 19:22
  • 1
    So, six then? Btw, is there any sheet music you could link to or post an image of? Also, I'm holding off, but it seems 95% clear to me that it just means a tempo or Tempo I. Feb 14, 2023 at 19:31
  • Sure! babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/… The part I'm talking about is on Page 5.
    – Steven
    Feb 14, 2023 at 19:58
  • Here's a link to a transcription that I'm beginning to think is just incorrect in its interpretation: cpdl.org/wiki/images/f/f7/No4-There_Is_An_Old_Belief.pdf You'll notice in the above-linked transcription that the editor notates the tempo as changing to half note=70 at measure 22
    – Steven
    Feb 14, 2023 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


Since the "tempo" marking comes each time after a ritardando and occurs at a place where one would expect an "a tempo" marking it can only be an abbreviation of "a tempo".
There is change in rhythmic texture at the first "tempo" marking and presumably some choir directors take that to imply a tempo change.

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