NEW LOCAL VENUE - The Concert Hall at Merchants Square Mall

Post anything thoughts/comments you may have related to our music. We have four discs out; Made In America, Sex lies and Politiks, Next!, and Game of love. We would love to hear from you....
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NEW LOCAL VENUE - The Concert Hall at Merchants Square Mall

Post#1 » Mon Jul 16, 2007 9:07 am

New spot we are considering playing at:

Hello ALL....

Here's a copy of the recent Morning Call article about our concert series and concert hall project:

New Allentown concert venue designed to boost original artists

By Jodi Duckett | Of The Morning Call
July 7, 2007

In the future, Sal Ritz and Mike Roche see a ''musician's village'' operating out of the Merchants Square Mall in South Allentown, where musicians and music lovers gather to put on and watch concerts, create music, learn from each other, entertain one another.

For starters, however, Ritz, a musician and theater consultant, and Roche, the mall owner, are settling for a series of concerts featuring popular regional artists who make original music. The series is set to kick off in September at the newly named Concert Hall at Merchants Square.

''It's a 10-show commercial of what this could possibly be,'' says Ritz, who envisions the concert series as the cornerstone of a village that includes a music store, a recording studio, rehearsal space and more.

What: New venue for concerts by original regional bands
When: Nine dates scheduled, September through December. Showtime: 8 p.m.
Where: 1901 S. 12th St., Allentown
Tickets: $10-$20, available beginning Aug. 1 at
On the Net:,
Sept. 28 and 29: Unsigned Band Showcase (20 bands, send promo to Sal Ritz Theatrical Productions, 1901 S. 12th St., Suite 212, Allentown, PA 18103-4777)
Oct. 26: Zen for Primates
Oct. 27: Sal's Acoustic Cafe featuring Jackie Tice, Maria Woodford, Alex Radus
Nov. 23: Todd Wolfe Band, with Scott Bradoka and the Staggering Evil Geniuses and Rabid Roy
Nov. 24: Philly Funk Authority with George Hrab and the Geologic Orchestra
Nov. 30: Lehigh Valley Blues Network Holiday Blues Extravaganza
Dec. 1: CrazyHeart with special guest Scottand Kim Roadshow
Dec. 28: Lehigh Valley Folk Music Society presents ''A tribute to Woody Guthrie''
Dec. 29: The Underhills, Philadelphia rock-pop-alternative favorites

Ritz has announced 10 concert events to be held beginning Sept. 28 with a two-day showcase of unsigned bands in the mall's 10,000-square-foot showroom, a venue now used for fashion shows, music expos and coin and stamp shows.

The schedule also includes acoustic acts such as Jackie Tice, rock/blues acts such as the Todd Wolfe Band, country bands such as CrazyHeart and dance bands such as Philadelphia Funk Authority.

Tickets, ranging from $10-$20, will go on sale Aug. 1 through the Lehigh Valley Arts Box Office.

The Concert Hall idea was hatched by Roche, who bought the two-story, 130,000-square-foot former warehouse building on S. 12th Street three years ago.

Merchants Square Mall is home to 24 businesses, such as antique dealers and specialty shops and holds expos on weekends.

But Roche says holding concerts ''was always something I had in the back of my head to do.'' So about six months ago he brought the idea to Ritz, whom he met through his children's involvement in the theater program at Saucon Valley High School. Ritz, a lifelong guitarist/singer-songwriter, former special education teacher and former director of theater at the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts, is producing director of Saucon Valley Fine Arts.

''I'm kind of from the old school,'' says Ritz. ''When I started it was always musicians working with musicians. I thought it would be a really good way to create a family atmosphere.''

So Ritz, whose last musical venture was 15 years spent in a cover rock band called the Joes, began contacting his musician friends and potential sponsors to gauge their interest. He quickly lined up both.

''Sal has a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm, which is great,'' says Mike Krisukas, guitarist/singer/songwriter in cabaret rock band Zen for Primates, on the schedule for Oct. 26. ''The main thing that I like about it is he really wants to promote original music.''

Also behind the plan is George Hrab, frontman for the Geologic Orchestra and drummer for Philadelphia Funk Authority, scheduled to perform on a double bill Nov. 24.

''I think the idea is a fantastic one. I'm very excited to see how it all plays out. I think it's quite a large undertaking and a very honorable one,'' he says.

The plan calls for concerts for many tastes -- ''we're interested in bringing in to the Merchants Square Mall everyone from 18 years old to 65 years old,'' says Roche.

Setups would be customized for the acts. For example, a show by Zen for Primates would be set up cabaret-style, with seating at tables. A concert by the Philadelphia Funk Authority would include plenty of space for dancing.

In addition, Kremmer's Cafe and Catering, a mall tenant, would offer concert patrons pre-concert dinners at its casual restaurant or even cater a full dinner concert.

Ritz and Roche don't want to be in the business of alcohol sales, but may apply for a license to be a BYOB venue.

Roche says the concert events would help his mall business by bringing new people in to discover what the mall has to offer.

He and Ritz are also interested in nurturing musicians, both established and up-and-coming.

Says Ritz: ''I want this to be a home for local and regional musicians. We want to create a place they come to not just to perform but to hang out and meet other musicians. I want to make it a place for mentorship for young kids coming up. To come and learn what it's all about. It's the kind of thing we did when we were coming up and there's nothing like that anymore.''

The Merchants Square venue also is a good performance alternative to bars and clubs, ''a place where music and performance can come first,'' says Ritz.

That's especially what excites Krisukas.

''It would definitely fill a hole. We only play Godfrey Daniels around here and we're always looking for another place.''

Says bandleader Todd Wolfe, ''Who knows? It might become the mecca of the Valley for music and arts.''

Sal Ritz
Producing Director
Saucon Valley School District Fine Arts
Hellertown, PA 18055

Sal Ritz Theatrical Productions
The Concert Hall at Merchants Square Mall
1901 S 12th St
Suite 212
Allentown, PA 18103-4777
610-653-3542 (cell)

Sal Ritz and Joe Mixon
Acoustic Duo
610-653-3542 (cell)

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