Knowlton Point
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Knowlton Point

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"Songs of the butterfly"

Songs of the butterfly

By Richard L.Gaw Staff Writer

Once a week, nearly without fail for the past nearly five years, Dyana Cannon travels more than one hour each way from her home in Ridley Park -- where she lives with her husband and two children and works as both a part-time registered nurse and a full-time French teacher -- to the quiet hamlet of Landenberg.

There, in the home of Al and Karen Hahn, the seemingly endless obligation of wife, mother, teacher and caregiver are asked to vanish for awhile, to allow for the generous words and music that inhabit Cannon's creativity to roam about and play. For the past five years, Cannon has been making that trip as a singer/songwriter for Knowlton Point, a Chester County-based quartet that has been slowly making its way through the local circuit with a unique blend of rock-, pop- and country-infused harmonies and lyrics. They've played small clubs, opened this year's Paradocx Winery Summer Music festival, and on Sept. 15, they'll be performing with local singer/songwriter Bill Rose at the Kennett Flash in Kennett Square.

Cannon is but one of Knowlton Point who sacrifices her time and mileage in what has become the geographic reality of the band; drummer Steve K lives in West Chester and lead guitarist Earl Wilt lives in Wilmington. Yet, considering what it is for Cannon to get to be able to work her songwriting with her talented trio of musicians, the once-a-week, two-hour round trip to Landenberg is the life equivalent of a visit to the local coffee shop.

For ten years, Cannon, then Dyana Ohlsson, was living north of Utica, N.Y. and the lead singer and songwriter for a group called Beautiful Strange. They played everywhere, and with each passing gig, whether or not they were aware of it, the audiences that caught the band heard the running journal of Dyana's life in nearly every song. A YouTube video still exists of Dyana singing at the front of an otherwise all-male band, slashing through chords in beat with what had become a kind of physical exorcism for her -- a way to escape her shyness and at the same time allowing her bottled up emotions to roam about the venue.

"I was the mother of a two-year-old girl at the time (she's now 12), and during a family trip to Sweden, my now ex-husband and his mother locked me in their apartment, with a pit bull, attempted to choke me and forced me out of the building without my daughter," she said. "I pepper sprayed them in self-defense, only in Sweden, pepper spraying is like shooting a gun."

Charges were eventually dropped, Cannon was reunited with her daughter and she left to return to the United States. Now divorced and living back in Utica, she would fall asleep at night and dream heavily in words and music. In the middle of the night she would grab a pen and write her dreams down. One of them was about the night in Sweden, and it became a song, "Bang Bang": "Remember December/Gonna share our daughter/You hated your mother/You stood with your mother/Both right there to shoot me/ Bang Bang..."

"All this music is about things I've had happen to me throughout my life," Cannon said. "That’s why my music is important and that’s why this band is important for me. This is like therapy for me, to be able to play the songs of myself."

Soon, she met a man from Philadelphia, married him, and eventually moved to Ridley Park. By then, she was writing 10 to 25 songs a year, and itching to join a band again. She kept asking her husband if he knew anyone in a band; he knew Paul Cordero, a local musician, and by the time the meeting was arranged in Media, a year had eclipsed. In the spring of 2008, Cannon brought her voice and songs to a rehearsal with Cordero, Hahn and Kogut. It was magical from the beginning.

“When Dyana first started playing one of her songs, it was like my fingers were instinctively playing the notes, and as soon as she got to the chorus, it was as I already knew what she was going to be singing even before she began," said Hahn. "Usually, you've got to get the feel for where the tendencies are when you first work with another musician. With Dyana, I almost had to stop and pinch myself. Every song she threw out there, the same connection was happening."

"They needed a songwriter and I needed good musicians," Cannon said.

The anatomy of Cannon's songs usually begin in a dream. Words and music at the same time. Not wanting to awake her family in the middle of the night, she closes herself off in a bathroom, speaks the lyrics into a digital recorder, hums harmony, then puts the recording aside, "to let it bake," she said. Some songs are completed in 10 minutes, while others take as much as 10 years. She'll then bring the rudimentary recording into rehearsal with the band, who begin to layer it with percussion, harmony and a bass line. Eventually, a sound is reached that works with Cannon's voice.

"The band is an emotional connection that’s made through the art that you make together, and we always need to understand each other spiritually," she said. "Knowlton Point is an extension of myself, and yes, it's tiring sometimes but it's also so desperately needed. This is the most beautiful music I've ever written."

To date, Knowlton Point has released one self-titled CD, a second has been recorded but still needs mixing and mastering, and a third has just been completed but to date, needs musical layering, harmonies and lead guitar. Hahn said that in addition to seeing the most recent recordings through to completion, he'd like to see the band continue playing festivals in the area -- as well as venues like The Flash -- with an eventual goal of bringing the band to the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, TX, which he's been to. "It's all musicians there, a great environment and an opportunity not only to perform, but cross pollinate with different styles and throw ideas back and forth with fellow musicians," he said.

In "Butterfly," Cannon writes: "So butterfly/make a getaway/and taste the skies and fly away...you are born to fly..." Cannon said she has dreams where she sees the floodlights of a stage before her and her band members, and in her dressing room, everything is made of pure gold. For now, though, she makes the two-hour round trip to Landenberg once a week.

"I believe that there is a destiny for us, and it's a matter of plugging away and enjoying it," she said. "My biggest joy is to play the emotions of the songs I write. If there's a song helping me in life, then it's certain that the song could be important to someone who happens to hear it. New songs are always evolving in my spirit."
To learn more about Knowlton Point, visit their website, www.knowltonpoint.com.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com
- Chester County Times


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