St. Kevin cantor's latest album brings her musical journey full circle


Joanne Lurgio says her new album, “Crossing Jordan,” is basically her musical journey, come full circle.

“I have a positive outlook. I believe goodness always wins out in the end,” said Lurgio, 59, the weekday cantor at St. Kevin Church in Warwick.

For seven years, Lurgio has also been a fulltime singer, songwriter and recording artist. “Crossing Jordan” is Lurgio’s fourth full-length album, which she plans to unveil during a free concert at St. Kevin Church on Aug. 18, beginning at 3 p.m.

“I’m doing what I love,” Lurgio said.

The album marks a departure from her three prior Americana-style albums. “Crossing Jordan” is a collection of well-known hymns and two original songs that aim to give the listener a sense of faith, comfort and healing.

“These are just beautiful songs,” said Lurgio, whose album includes renditions of classics such as “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” “In the Garden,” “Shepherd Me, O God” and “You Are Mine.”

Those are some of the hymns that Lurgio said she came to appreciate on a deeper level as she began cantoring during weekday funeral Masses. Intimidated at first by the prospect of singing at funerals, Lurgio said she eventually saw those hymns as offering moments of grace for the families and loved ones of the dearly-departed.

“It’s such an honor to sing for them in those moments,” said Lurgio, who left a career in the corporate world about seven years ago and decided to pursue her musical passion.

“My voice is my gift from God. It’s my first instrument,” said Lurgio, who often performs in coffee houses and house concerts. She also sings in senior facilities and memory units, providing musical therapy for Alzheimer’s patients whose brains still retain the memories of their favorite songs.

“I’d watch people ‘wake up’ and I would just cry at that. It took me awhile to get used to it,” she said. “To see people who can’t speak, sing, and people who can’t remember anybody’s names, start singing along with me, it’s just so powerful.

“There is power in music,” Lurgio added. “There is magic in music, and there is healing in music.”

After leaving a job as a corporate safety consultant in 2012, Lurgio said she was contacted by Bryan Barrette, the music director at St. Kevin Church, who was looking for a soloist to fill in for weekday funeral and memorial services. Lurgio said she hesitated, especially since it was well outside of her comfort zone.

“I gave it a lot of thought, but I had a philosophy of ‘just say yes’ to new opportunities, so I decided to give it a try,” Lurgio said. “I’m so glad I did. It’s been such a gratifying experience, especially to see the power of music and how it can bring healing and comfort.”

Lurgio recorded the base tracks on “Crossing Jordan” live with Barrette at St. Kevin Church. Lurgio said she presented her “crazy idea” of recording the familiar hymns to Barrette, who did not think it was crazy at all and willingly accompanied her.

“Singing these hymns that I sang hundreds of times over the years in church, they now feel different to me,” Lurgio said. “It’s been my own personal awakening to these songs and their beauty, the meaning of the words and the stories they tell, and the comfort they offer.

Lurgio said it was mind-boggling how often people would come up to her after a funeral Mass to thank her and compliment her on her voice.

“It happened so often that I started to think about recording my favorite hymns,” Lurgio said, adding that the more thought she gave it, the more she felt “the need” to record those hymns on a new album.

“You just listen to the words of these songs, and they’re gorgeous,” said Lurgio, who raised a little more than $3,800 in total pledges from Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, to help produce the album.

“I believe there was a special calling for me to create some much-needed peace and comfort in the best way I know how, through music,” Lurgio said. “And when you get a calling, you need to respond. Crossing Jordan is my response to that call.”