An article by Robert Reid of The Record regarding new incoming artistic director Gregory Oh, and the upcoming "Between the Pins" event.

  • Tue Dec 18 2012 14:54:00

Open Ears welcomes new artistic director at bowling lanes

Whether you like music and enjoy bowling or like bowling and enjoy music, you can meet the new artistic director of the Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound while trying to hit strikes and spares.

Gregory Oh, who replaces outgoing artistic director Peter Hatch, is looking forward to the event, which takes place Jan. 17 at Waterloo Bowling Lanes.

People will be able to meet Oh, while knocking down pins against a backdrop of new music in keeping with the spirit of the festival Hatch founded in 1998.

“I enjoy bowling, even though I’m terrible at it,” Oh confides with a laugh. “We thought it would be a lot of fun and provide an interesting context through which to hear the music.”

A busy performer (pianist and harpsichord), musical director (new music group Toca Loca) and professor in the music faculty at the University of Toronto, Oh is excited about assuming the reins from Hatch, who is remaining on as a board member.

“Open Ears is an international festival,” he observes.

“I travel quite a bit and it is interesting how well known the festival is in places such as New York City and Berlin. It’s on people’s radar.”

Oh has first-hand experience with Open Ears, having performed in 2011. The festival reflects his own approach to music, he acknowledges.

“It’s a great fit for me in terms of my personal taste and sensibilities.”

Oh is most impressed with the festival’s welcoming inclusivity.

“It really is an open festival. It’s unique in that it doesn’t subscribe to one genre, niche or dogmatic way of thinking.

“It’s strange, not in a pejorative way, but in a wonderfully imaginative way.”

Oh is familiar with Waterloo Region, having performed numerous concerts at Jan Narveson’s Chamber Music Society.

He plays piano in the Mercer-Oh Trio with sisters Akemi and Rachel Mercer on violin and cello respectively.

The trio performs Dvorak’s Trio no. 2 and rondo for cello/piano in the Music Room on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Oh recognizes the challenge of taking over from the festival’s founder and guiding spirit.

“Peter leaves 15 years of history. It’s a wonderful legacy.”

For his part, Hatch believes it was a good time to pass on the artistic torch. He intends to devote more time to composing.

“I’m not leaving because I grew disinterested,” he confirms.

“I wanted to leave on a high note, when the festival was in a healthy state.”

Hatch is synonymous with new music in Waterloo Region — and beyond.

He has taught music at Wilfrid Laurier University for 28 years. He founded NUMUS in 1985 and led the concert program for a decade through 1995.

He also was composer-in-residence with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony from 1999 through 2003.

Hatch agrees his timing is fortuitous as Open Ears prepares to work more closely with the Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area (CAFKA).

He is excited by the prospects of Open Ears and CAFKA “joining hands.”

“We share a compatible artistic vision.”

Both organizations are planning a new biennial exhibition/festival scheduled for June 2014.

Meanwhile, the partnership will get a trial run in late May 2013 when they host a weekend of installation and sound.

Called Between the Ears, the event will take place in downtown Kitchener in Civic Square, on King Street and in the Walper Hotel.

“It’s shaping up to be a bigger event than we originally planned,” Hatch says of Between the Ears.

Mercer-Oh Trio

8 p.m. Thursday

Music Room

Tickets: $30 adult, $25 senior, $20 student

Available at the door, Words Worth Books or online at TicketScene

Between the Pins

8 p.m. Jan 17

Waterloo Bowling Lanes

Tickets: $25 regular, $15 students

Reserve tickets at

AuthorGregory Oh