Annette Goerke interview, 13 January 2014 and 20 January 2014

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Annette Goerke interview, 13 January 2014 and 20 January 2014




Annette Goerke was appointed organist at St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia at the age of 17. After 18 years as Cathedral organist, she was appointed Director of Music assuming responsibility for the choir in addition to playing duties and continued with this dual role for a further 25 years. A graduate of the University of Western Australia, she has maintained her association with the University through teaching for the School of Music, as University organist and as a regular recitalist.

Annette’s awards include the Papal award 'Crucem Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice' for her services to St Mary’s Cathedral and a Churchill Fellowship for advanced organ studies. She regularly performed in recital broadcasts for a number of Australian Broadcasting Corporation programmes and has also appeared with the West Australia Symphony Orchestra.


Goerke, Annette


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Julia Wallis


Annette Goerke


City Beach, W.A.


Interview 1: 37 minutes, 45 seconds
Interview 2: 48 minutes, 22 seconds
Total: 1 hour, 26 minutes, 7 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Born Maureen Annette Parkes in Perth in 1938, the youngest of six children. Spent her childhood in the country. Learnt to play the piano and went to about 8 different schools (4 of them boarding).
00:30 The last two years of secondary school was done at Santa Maria College in Attadale. By 1955, her leaving year, she was up to the AMEB Associate Diploma.

Track 3
00:00 Musical education at Santa Maria was very broad. Annette Goerke (AG) was also given the opportunity to accompany the school choir and to take part in musical productions.
00:58 Left school in 1955 but was invited to become the organist at St Mary’s Cathedral in her final year at school. Father Albert Lynch was her teacher. He founded the liturgical all male cathedral choir in 1938. At this time, he was the Parish priest at Applecross. He was a hard task master but very supportive until his death in 1976.
03:05 St Mary’s just had one appointment as cathedral organist.
03:41 AG spent the first year after leaving school learning the organ. She also had piano lessons with Alice Carrard. The previous cathedral organist came on occasionally to assist in her first few months.
04:30 The next year AG decided she had to earn some money to supplement the 2 guineas a month she earned as cathedral organist (plus weddings). She enrolled at Underwood Business College in Murray Street, close to Forrest Place (next to Bairds Department Store) in order to do part-time secretarial work. In the middle of the year when the course was completed the college asked her to teach typewriting by the principal, Miss Watson who was a lover of classical music. They also allowed her to fulfil her commitments at the cathedral.

Track 4
00:00 In her free time AG liked dancing. She met her husband at a church social group dance. They were married in 1960. They lived in a flat in Terrace Drive near the Christian Brothers College (now occupied by the Duxton Hotel). AG played for the morning cathedral choir practices and then walked on to work at Underwood Business College. She continued to do this until about 1963. In 1963 they decided to start building their present home in City Beach.
01:40 At that time married women often gave up work. The previous cathedral organist gave up playing when she got married. When AG expressed the wish to continue playing at the cathedral this was accepted and agreed.
02:48 In about 1963, some work was done on the cathedral organ. This was badly needed. It was renovated, enlarged and relocated from the west end gallery to the south transept.
04:09 This made the instrument more reliable and enabled AG to audition for the ABC and do broadcasts.
04:33 Before the renovation work, ciphers (notes) would stick and made playing it quite traumatic. The ABC came to hear AG playing the organ at the cathedral.
05:49 At this time church services were broadcast on ABC radio regularly. St Mary’s high mass at 11am was broadcast on the first Sunday of every month.

Track 5
00:00 1965 doing regular broadcasts at the ABC. Hoping for children but they didn’t arrive so in 1966 AG decided to enrol for a Bachelor of Music degree in composition at UWA. There was a quota system in place.
01:25 The degree could be done part-time. Professor Callaway interviewed AG and advised her to enrol in 3 of the 4 First Year units to have a better chance of selection.
02:20 AG was accepted and was only a couple of months into her study when she discovered that she was pregnant. In the six years she was studying, AG had 3 daughters. She was very busy as she was studying and playing at St Mary’s and doing recital broadcasts for the ABC and was orchestral organist and soloist with WASO . She also did lunchtime recitals at UWA. This was only made possible by the support of her husband and family.
03:41 The minimum time was spent at University – just lectures and tutorials. Many of the students were part-time and the lectures were often scheduled after 4pm. The listening and studying could be done at home. She was not a typical 1960s university student and didn’t take part in student activities such as PROSH.
05:27 Many of the Bachelor of Music degree students were mature age and part-time.

Track 6
00:00 The Music Department was located in Tuart House at the corner of Mounts Bay Road and Crawley Avenue. It used to be the Vice Chancellor’s residence. It was an idyllic location. Next door was the Zoology Department.
00:53 Many of the rooms were small and no doubt staff looked forward to moving to purpose-built premises (which they did in 1976).
01:28 A larger lecture theatre had been built onto the back of the building. The library was also located here.
02:27 Most of the students doing the Bachelor of Music composition degree at this time were mature-age, studying part-time and were professional performers. These included Graham Wood, Ashley Arbuckle (violin); John Dean (viola); Peter Finch (clarinet & saxophone); Wendy Nash; Frank Arndt; Wallace Tate.
03:17 Younger students who were doing the music core units as part of their degree would spend considerable time on the main campus. Those doing the Bachelor of Music would do one non-music unit out of 14. This meant that the music department in Tuart House was almost self-contained.
04:07 It was a very broad course covering history of music, interpretation of early music, ethnomusicology, orchestration and instrumentation, musicianship, keyboard work as well as composition and writing in various styles. These composition units were principally one-to-one lectures or tutorials.
04:48 Frank Callaway was head of department and there were about 6 full time staff including David Tunley, David Symons, John Hind (university organist), Laughton Harris and Sally Kester.

Track 7
00:00 Assessment took the form of weekly oral tests, assignments, major essays and end of year exams.
00:31 The oral testing gave the students an idea of how they were doing. The composition units were working one to one with the teacher so students were clear on how they were progressing. There were also listening tests.
01:41 AG cannot remember anybody failing the course. The students were scrutinised before they were allowed to undertake the degree.
02:19 Due to the close relationship with staff, students could always discuss any problems they might be having. If the students had problems it is more likely that they would be made aware of them rather than the other way around.

Track 8
00:00 Winston Churchill Memorial Trust established in Australia in 1965. The aim of the trust was to give opportunities for overseas study that is no available in Australia. There are no prescribed qualifications. Merit is the primary criteria plus the extent to which the applicant’s work will benefit the Australian community. It is expected that the fellow will return to Australia and apply the knowledge that is gained from their Fellowship. This is a condition of the award.
01:58 AG was in her last year at UWA in 1971 when she put in an application. At the time she had a four year old, a two year old and a baby who was only a few weeks old. Her husband had agreed to come with her and help with the children. She had to get a release from the cathedral and they agreed as long as she was present for the Easter ceremonies and back by Christmas.
02:49 Referees were the Catholic Archbishop of Perth, Father Albert Lynch and John Hind, the university organist. David Tunley and Professor Callaway also lent their support. A mutual friend, Molly McGurk, had been awarded a Churchill Fellowship and advised on the application.
03:46 You had to state in the application what you were going to do. In AG’s case, advanced organ studies with Marie-Claire Alain in Paris and to attend the international summer academy for organists in Harlem in the Netherlands. AG was interested in the interpretation of 17th, early 18th century music (covered so well in theory at UWA by David Tunley). This study in Paris gave that theory practical knowledge to play the instruments for which that music was written (the French Baroque).
04:38 It led to her buying a 22-stop organ for home based on the classical French design. It has been good for her students to hear those French sounds.
05:03 AG was away for nearly a year and benefited greatly from that concentrated study. She believes that she has passed this knowledge on.
05:32 Master classes in Harlem also invaluable. Studied the works of Bach with Anton Heiller and contemporary music with Werner Jacob. Had the opportunity to play on the modern and historical instruments during that summer academy during those three weeks. There was also a wide range of music available for purchase.
06:22 The non-teaching break following Harlem gave her the opportunity to visit places such as St Marks in Venice, Wagner’s Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, and St Bach’s Thomas Church in Leipzig etc. During the six months in Paris she had the opportunity to listen to Olivier Messiaen play at La Trinité each Sunday.

Track 9
00:00 Reflecting back on studying at UWA. It inspired AG to go overseas for further study. The units covering orchestration and instrumentation were extremely useful in later life.

Interview 2

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Return from Europe in 1973. University organist John Hind was to take sabbatical leave and Professor Callaway requested that AG act in his absence and teach his performance students and any new enrolments. This was her first experience of teaching but felt confident enough to do so after her Churchill Fellowship. Also did some part time harmony assignment marking and tutoring of another unit in the Music Department.
01:18 Gave a number of lunchtime recitals at UWA for the music society. Also started recording for the ABC with WASO’s principal trumpet, Kevin Johnson. Also did some ABC broadcasts.
01:41 Also involved in a project with the organist of St George’s Cathedral, Michael Wentzell to play the complete organ works of Bach. Michael was the President of the Organ Society at this time and AG was Vice President. Due to his sudden death in 1973 the work was not completed.
02:13 At the end of 1973 AG was appointed Director of Music at St Mary’s Cathedral assuming responsibility for the choir as well as being organist. The children were aged 6, 4 and 2 at the time.
02:36 The teaching at UWA was individual performance lessons and would be negotiated according to the student’s timetable and her availability. The Department was still located at Tuart House and things had not change much while AG was away in Europe.

Track 3
00:00 AG’s Graduation Ceremony took place when she was in Paris 1972. The first UWA organist was Michael Brimer who was a lecturer in music from 1962 to 1965. He gave the opening recital on the McGillvray Organ in January 1965. He gave other recitals which were very well attended.
00:59 John Hind followed from 1966 to 1981. Both Michael and John were full time members of staff in the Music Department. When AG was appointed in 1982 she had served as Acting Organist on two occasions. She continued in this position during the 1980s. She took a break in the 1990s. They didn’t appoint a University Organist in this time but used guest organists. AG started playing again in the late 1990s when she left St Mary’s Cathedral and was officially reappointed in 2002.
02:13 The conditions have changed over that time. The organist plays for all University graduations and official ceremonies and give advice on the use of the organ. The volume of work has risen considerably. There used to be 4 graduations a year and a University Sunday service. There is no longer a Sunday service but in 2013 there were 17 or 18 graduation ceremonies split over two seasons.
03:23 Previously the Music Department had to be advised about the use of the organ in Winthrop Hall by non-University hirers, today it is a commercial venue administered by University Theatres. [Pause to allow garbage truck to go past].
04:05 Requirement for graduations was to play a short recital before the ceremony began. It was free choice and AG could play more secular music. Procession music would be similar to what was played at St Mary’s Cathedral.

Track 4
00:00 AG has played for graduations of ex-students she taught, ex choir boys from St Mary’s Cathedral and their parents who did further education as well as relatives.
00:51 UWA music Bachelor of Music degree was now available in performance and music education.
01:32 AG began teaching organ students in 1973. Her part time tutoring had to stop at the end of 1973 due to her appointment as Director of Music at St Mary’s Cathedral. She always continued to teach students in organ performance and still does.
02:12 There were a number of mature age students who she remained in contact with. Many have since moved overseas and they meet up quite regularly in Paris.
02:47 Australia has had some very good organists. It is easy to study the organ if there is something at the end of it. It is difficult to get work as an organist unless you are going into a church position. It is hard to make your career as a concert organist.

Track 5
00:00 ABC recital work continued on her return from Europe and continued for 25 years until the cathedral organ became unreliable for broadcast recording.
01:09 By this time the ABC was starting to cut back in that area. From mid-1960 to 1990 it had been a heyday for recording organ musical programmes. There were many musical programmes broadcast on the radio.
02:37 At the end of 1972 AG began working with Graham Johnson the principal trumpeter at WASO. They did many trumpet and organ broadcasts and concerts. Also with the Perth Chamber Brass.
03:09 Ray Irving from the ABC Music Department was a great support and a fantastic mentor. He liked the combination of brass and organ. Ray died in early 2013. A few later AG’s French organ teacher, Marie-Claire Alain also died.

Track 6
00:00 AG started doing lunchtime recitals at UWA in 1968 quite independently of her University studies. She played at Winthrop and did a number of concerts for the University Music Society often playing with visiting overseas trumpet players such as Gordon Reid (NZ), Edward Tarr (USA), and Graham Ashton (UK).
00:57 AG has kept up an association with concerts at UWA through the recent “Keyed Up” concert series and others. A CD of UWA musical treasures was produced for the UWA Centenary.
01:52 Through the lunchtime recital series she was able to introduce audiences to many large scale organ works such as Charles Camilleri's 'Missa Mundi', Petr Eben's 'Faust' and 'Job' and in particular the works of Olivier Messiaen. AG’s association with Olivier Messiaen goes back to her first recital at St Mary’s in 1963 and has since played most of his works. AG had never heard any recording of La Nativité but was assisted by Father Lynch.
03:17 While in Paris in 1972, AG was able to listen to Olivier Messiaen play every Sunday at Eglise de la Trinité.
03:27 AG gave the first WA performances of his later lengthy works in Winthrop Hall. She also recorded his works for the ABC.
03:56 Recent recitals of Messiaen’s music have been associated with anniversaries. He died in 1992. On the first anniversary of his death, AG was invited to give a memorial recital for the Melbourne International Festival of Organ and Harpsichord held in St Patrick’s Cathedral. In 1996, the Festival of Perth featured a lot of his music but not organ music.
05:03 AG decided to do a 3pm recital at St Mary’s and make the link between Messiaen’s music and religious inspiration playing under the stained glass windows. He is highly regarded as an original composer and teacher of composition and analysis.
07:16 The next anniversary in 2002 was the 10th anniversary of his death. AG gave a recital in Winthrop Hall and recorded a CD on the McGillvray organ entitled “Resurrection”.
07:43 The last anniversary was the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2008.

Track 7
00:00 The organ at Winthrop Hall was acoustically different to the one at St Mary’s. St Mary’s was more romantic and the McGillvray organ more classical.
00:46 It was easy to get an audience at Winthrop for recitals of Messiaen’s music. However 800 people came to the recital in 1996 at St Mary’s (probably due to the publicity by the Perth Festival of his works).
02:00 Organ students at UWA had to practice where they could find an organ. It was not easy. A tracker action mechanical instrument is the ideal. Both Winthrop and St Mary’s had electrical action. Trinity College in East Perth has been very generous in allowing students to practice on their organ and for examinations. This was built by the same person who built AG’s organ at home.
03:24 Many of the matured aged students were already playing at a church so they could practice and use that organ for examinations.
03:40 It was always difficult to book practice time in Winthrop Hall even for students’ final recitals as there was always something happening there. During exams the hall of the Undercroft was virtually out of bounds. This made things very challenging.

Track 8
00:00 AG’s work with WASO – orchestral organist and soloist. The venue for WASO concerts from about 1967 was Winthrop Hall. Prior to this they used the Capitol Theatre in William Street, Perth. The Perth Concert Hall was opened in 1973. In 1969 WASO did the first performance of the Poulenc organ concerto at Winthrop. AG was soloist for the Poulenc concerto and a Handel organ concerto. AG gave the first WA performance of the Poulenc concerto in 1967 with an amateur orchestra in the Trinity Congregational Church.
02:06 Over the years AG had many opportunities as a soloist, two in the Concert Hall were televised in 1984 and 1985. Doing solo work with WASO was readily available at that time. Then things dried up.
03:19 When AG was a student a lot of her fellow students were from WASO. They were matured aged students and weren’t studying performance at UWA. Standards are very high but it is possible for UWA performance students to join WASO if they have enough talent. Many of them go to ANAM and work in a training orchestra first.
04:32 AG has played with WASO when the score requires the use of an organ. In 1997 went on an Eastern States tour. Concerts were given in the Sydney Opera House and the Melbourne Concert Hall. AG was given practice time to familiarise herself with those organs which were vastly different to the ones she had been used to. The organ at the Sydney Opera House was a Ron Sharp organ (the same as in the Perth Concert Hall). The organ in Melbourne was very different and was of French design.
06:50 AG is not sure if the tour was initiated by WASO or whether they were invited.

Track 9
00:00 The Festival of Perth started when AG was about 15 years old. In the 1960s there were programmes as part of the Festival called “Music in the Churches”. In 1965 for the first time there was an organ in a public venue – Winthrop Hall. Michael Brimer gave an all Bach recital for the Festival.
02:03 From then on the Festival regularly brought international organists to Perth to give recitals on that instrument. Gillian Weir was just beginning her career, whereas E Power Biggs was coming to the end of his. Others included Marilyn Mason, Nicholas Danby, Susi Jeans, and Jennifer Bate. Some returned 2 or 3 times. Organ recitals were in their heyday and well patronised.
02:54 Winthrop Hall was not air conditioned which made things challenging for the artist, the audience and the instrument itself!
03:22 The recitals at UWA continued until 1977 when the new Sharp instrument in the Perth Concert Hall was used (4 years after the Concert Hall opened.
03:56 Organists featured less frequently in Festival of Perth programmes from 1977 until it became quite rare to have an organ recital in the Festival.
04:52 In 1968, Gillian Weir was just starting her career. In 1977 when the Perth Concert Hall was inaugurated she was engaged to play at that opening ceremony and subsequently to give one of the two Perth Festival solo recitals on the newly installed Ronald Sharp instrument. They also gave AG an opportunity to do the second.
05:44 Gillian Weir also visited the UWA Music Department as musician in residence. She performed the complete organ works of J S Bach in 14 recitals on the McGillvray organ. She also conducted Master Classes.
06:05 The artist in residence scheme had been inaugurated at UWA just a few years earlier in about 1973. Distinguished international musicians joined the teaching staff of the Music Department as visitors. In addition to their teaching programmes they performed public recitals.
06:35 Gilliam Weir returned the next year as well (1978) and did 7 recitals. In 1979 Gillian Weir returned again and was Chief Adjudicator in the organ division of the National Eisteddfod that was held in Perth. It was a major project for the State’s 150th anniversary celebrations. She played harpsichord and organ as well as lecturing.
07:30 UWA has been very fortunate to have Gillian return so frequently. She came back for another Festival of Perth in 1987 where she gave recitals in the Perth Concert Hall and St George’s Cathedral. Gillian has been Patron of the local Organ Society for many years. She has only recently retired from her career as a concert organist.

Track 10
00:00 1996 Awarded Papal award ‘Crucem Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice’ in recognition for her 40 years’ service to St Mary’s Cathedral. AG took Long Service Leave from the cathedral after 43 years’ service and this prompted her to retire. It was quite daunting as she had been there since she was 16 years old and had a strong personal family connection to the Cathedral. However retiring from St Mary’s had given her opportunities to pursue other interests.
02:32 At this time AG started playing for a number of ceremonies at UWA encouraged by Peter Leunig who was working at the Office of Development at that time. She did all the graduations in 2001 and accepted the role of University organist again officially in 2002.
03:06 She was very honoured to receive a Chancellor’s Medal in 2004 in recognition of service to the community and UWA.
03:27 There is a family tradition of studying music at UWA. AG’s daughter Trish did a Bachelor of Music at UWA and now her grandson Jonty (Trish’s son) is about to enter the Music Department of UWA as a student in 2014. He has been awarded a Tunley Scholarship. Trish and Jonty both play the flute. Trish was taught by David Tunley’s wife Paula. AG feels very much part of the UWA family.



Goerke, Annette, “Annette Goerke interview, 13 January 2014 and 20 January 2014,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,