The first substantial organ work in MacMillan’s output, Gaudeamus in loci pace
owes its existence to a location far from the metropolitan splendours of Westminster Cathedral. It was written in 1998 to celebrate the golden jubilee of the re-foundation of Pluscarden Abbey, the Benedictine community near Elgin, Moray, in the diocese of Aberdeen. The composer serenely unfolds the melodic line of a plainchant melody against a free and high-pitched ornamental line, which sounds at times like birdsong—an inescapable feature of the tranquillity of Pluscarden—and further evokes its sense of timelessness.
The melody, Gaudeamus in loci pace is sung as the introit on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day on which the monks celebrate the anniversary of their re-foundation. The piece was written for the Scottish organist Joseph Cullen, a former Assistant Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral.
from notes by James Whitbourn © 2001