Love for Canton keeps bringing Irish composer back

Headshot of DANA

Dana Scallon, known professionally as DANA, has had a very successful music career in her home country of Ireland and around the world. But, this career that has brought her multiple times to Canton and caused her to open her company, DS Music Productions, there, almost didn’t happen.

“I was still at school. I was an amateur singer. I decided I didn’t want to be a singer. I wanted to be a teacher of Music and English Literature,” she said.

DANA comes from a musical family and grew up in Derry, Northern Ireland.

“I started singing very young. I sang in the church choir. I sang within my family. We sang at any type of church event or charity event,” she said. Her father was also a trumpet player in a band.

As a folk singer, DANA recorded for the first time at 16 years old on Decca Records. “I did a talent competition and got a recording contract and was supposed to take part in auditions after that. I auditioned for the National singing competition where they picked who represented the country in the Eurovision competition,” said DANA.       

Eurovision is an annual singing competition which started in 1956. The broadcast has more than a hundred million viewers throughout the contest. DANA was chosen to represent Ireland in 1970.

“The producer of the program remembered me and he said, ’I think this song would suit you,’ and that’s how I ended up representing Ireland,” she said. The winning song, All Kinds of Everything, was his selection.

She was the first singer from Ireland to win the competition. Being the Eurovision winner changed the trajectory of her life.

“I won the competition and overnight, I was thrown into a pop career,” said DANA. “I recorded and, thank God, I had chart success in Europe and in South America and Australia,” she said.

She performed and recorded for six years when a health scare curtailed her career.     

“I had an operation on one of my vocal cords. I had a growth with a root on one of the cords. Thank God, it was not malignant. It was a very serious operation. They had to remove the root, so they had to remove a bit of the cord. I had to learn to speak again and I had to learn to sing again. It took almost five years to come back to normal performance,” she said.

After this surgery, it brought a change in her viewpoint.

“It was during this time that my own faith deepened and developed,” said DANA.

Two years after her surgery, DANA married her boyfriend, Damien Scallon in October, 1978, at St. Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry, where her parents were married.

While she continued to recover, her husband suggested a new path for a musical career.

Image of DANA composing music

“He had a very deep faith. It was then that we started writing songs together. One of those songs was Our Lady of Knock, Our Golden Lady,” she said.

He said to me one day, “’You’re a recording artist and have had a successful career. Isn’t it time that you put your faith on record?’ It had me start thinking of recording the Christian music we were writing. I thought, ‘He’s right.’ So, I began recording the music that we were writing together,” said DANA.

She recorded these songs on WORD Records, an American label out of Nashville.

Dana’s husband lost his job as a hotelier in Northern Ireland, but an opportunity opened up for him in the United States. In 1991, they moved to Alabama with their four children. Mother Angelica hired Damien to create a retreat for people who visited the monastery where EWTN ( Everlasting Word Television Network, Cathlolic Television) is located in Alabama.

“I met her before we moved to America, when I traveled to sing on EWTN. We lived about 10 minutes from the monastery. My husband saw her every day and I saw her almost every day,” said DANA.

She worked on several shows on EWTN including “DANA & Friends.”

DANA was asked to enter a song for the 1993 World Youth Day which took place at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado.

“I wrote We Are One Body, and it was selected,” she said.

During the youth day celebration, she performed We Are One Body, with Saint Pope John Paul II presiding. After completing the song, she was invited by a priest to meet the pope. He kissed her on the head and said, “Good. Good.”

Image of DANA meeting the pope

The song is still performed at World Youth Day gatherings and at churches around the world.

She also performed the song in 1995 when Saint Pope John Paul II said Mass at Central Park in New York.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the song’s debut. As part of the celebration, she has done the intro and outro for St. John the Baptist Adult Choir of Newburgh’s re-creation of singing We Are One Body, which they originally did virtually during the pandemic. The original and the new video can both be viewed here.

Little did DANA know that when she met Mother Angelica, who was born in Canton, that the city would be somewhere that she would continue to visit. It all began with meeting one man, Harold Ziegler.

“When I first came to Canton, I was invited by our dear friend Harold Ziegler to sing at a fundraiser. He is one of the most outstanding people I’ve met in my life,” she said. “He just wants to help everyone. We feel very honored to know him and the many other friends that we have made [in Canton] through him,” said DANA.

DANA has returned numerous times to help Ziegler fundraise for Catholic education in Canton.  

In 2013, she was the keynote speaker at Walsh University’s Winter commencement. During the ceremony, she received an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Arts and Letters. At the same ceremony, Ziegler was honored with the Distinguished Service Medal.

DANA feels a real connection to the town of Canton and its people.

“I love Canton. I think we have been coming here for close to 25 years. Because of Mother Angelica, I frequently visited the convent that she was from and the home of Rhoda Wise. I think Rhoda is on the road to sainthood. She was from a working-class family. She had the gift of healing. She healed Mother Angelica,” said DANA.

DS Music Productions is located in Canton because, according to DANA, “It is a very special place, and we felt drawn to be there. It feels like home when I come here. I feel at peace, secure and safe. I love the people,” she said.

Decades after her Eurovision win, Dana continues to be involved with music. She recently recorded a song that took over a decade to create.

“I think I did one of the most important things of my career this year. I’ve written a song inspired by St. Patrick called, Light the Fire.”

She expanded on the creation of the song.

“My brother-in-law, who has since passed on, was a Catholic priest. About 14 years ago, he said, ‘We need a new song for St. Patrick because he is a Saint for today and for the whole world.’ It’s been a journey, but I completed it this year,” said DANA

Her Catholic faith guides DANA on how to live her life and the way that she creates musical art to share with the world.

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Nancilynn Gatta

Nancilynn Gatta

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