Submitted by Christine Whelan
MAY 13, 2021 VOL. 2 ISSUE 19
Sessions on the River is Niagara’s premier professional recording studio. Housed in the former Parkway Movie Theater, its name echoes its address, along the river at 133 Niagara Parkway, Fort Erie.
On May 1st, Chris Curry and his team celebrated by raising glasses to cheer the studio and to all the hard work put in — but most of all, to thirteen years of having fun.
Curry, founder and CEO/CFO of Sessions, originally from Kingston, moved to Crystal Beach in 1996 after spending his school years in St. Catharines.
He explained his early years in music. “I took up piano. When I went to Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School, I was in a band.”
He would record whenever he could, even back then. “Whenever there was a two-week window, like during holidays, I rented recording equipment and recorded, both the band and myself.”
“I went to college, majoring in vocals and took Jazz. I wanted to learn the theory. It helps me with the recording at Sessions.”
Thirteen Years of Sessions
Chris first opened in that location as Eclipse Recording Studio in 1996 but sold the business in 1999.
“And then I came back in 2008,” he explained his plans of return to the Niagara Parkway location that has led him to today. “After I left, back in 1999, there was a decline in the recording business. So, I came back with a purpose of adding a live venue and getting a liquor licence. At first, we did a lot of shows with temporary liquor licences, but then realized it wasn’t worth it with all the leftover beer each time and we couldn’t resell it. So, we got a full licence.”
Sessions on the River is now comprised of a board of directors and shareholders.
When I asked Chris, in the thirteen years, what stood out in his mind, he responded with, “I would say the initial renovations — from flooring to the walls, to wiring and getting the equipment hooked up. It took about nine months. Part-time, mind you, I was also working a full-time job.”
He remembered, “I arrived at the studio at 4:00, switched into my jeans and T-shirt, met Lloyd, Paul and Kevin, and we just went at it daily for nine months to get this place up and going,” Curry was referring to Lloyd McGuigan, electrician, whose contribution was exchanged for recording time for his son’s band. Paul Brady and Kevin Kreze are now shareholders.
Chris described what the rooms looked like when he first took it over, “The whole lobby had to get renovated. Bathrooms upgraded. We had to put new flooring on the second floor.”
“There was a lot of concrete to deal with. Just to run a wire, we had to get through concrete.”
Musicians, both local and long distance, walk through the doors of Sessions on the River to record their work.
When asked about the furthest bands have travelled, Curry mentioned Denmark. “They won on Eurovision. In 2002, we were streaming bands. So, we did a show — they were our fourth show. The next day they recorded a couple songs. During the recording, we streamed the whole thing back to Denmark. When the band was not recording, they were texting and promoting their band. They really worked hard to win.”
He then added, “We’ve got bands that come through from Vancouver, Montreal, New York, California, all over North America.”
The musicians often find Sessions online. “They’re usually coming through the area for another reason. Sometimes, when there are events such as conventions and they are on their way, they stop in. Or when they are on tour and they want to book a place.” Being five minutes from the Peace Bridge, the location really works for Chris and his team.
“Some people have called it legendary. I haven’t called it that yet,” with a laugh, “I don’t think we’ve been around long enough for that.”
Thinking back over the thirteen years, “We’ve had so many bands in here. We’ve had over 200 streaming shows, all the recordings. When someone asks me, ‘Who have you recorded?’ I can’t think of one. There are so many. So, I put a list on the wall by the front door and I just direct them to the wall.”
During These Days
Due to pandemic restrictions, the bar and live shows are currently shut down but, “On the other side of the coin, the record industry and our services are pretty much the same. We’re not allowed to stream bands right now, though.”
Chris has been taking personal advantage of the current restrictions. “I’m trying to finish my own album right now, that I started when the pandemic started. I’m almost done.” His album is called, Satellite Cafe. “I’m hoping to it get it out July 1st.”
He continues to record others’ music, as well as his own, while waiting for things to open up so they can start holding events again.
Curry admits he would love to purchase the building and expand. He says he can always dream.
In wrapping up, Chris stated, “I just love what I’m doing and that’s primarily why we’re still open,” explaining how its not about the money. “I’m having a lot of fun. And you can’t buy that.”
Learn more about Sessions on the River by checking out sessionsontheriver.com