When Jean Cantillon’s daughter Kate died two years ago after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while pregnant, there was little that could bring her comfort.
A funeral director at Lynch-Cantillon Funeral Home in Woburn, Cantillon was used to helping others in times of sorrow. Now she needed support as she planned a funeral for her only daughter.
One of the first calls she made was to Andrew Giordano, who has performed on national television and stages from Boston to Broadway. He has also carved out a niche as a deeply affecting and sought-after funeral singer.
“I knew I wanted him to sing at her funeral,” Cantillon said. “His voice always just touched my soul, and I know that Katie felt the same way.”
While the funeral service for her daughter was difficult, Cantillon said that Giordano’s voice “brought me comfort and just spiritually took hold.”
“I was sad — and know I’ll be sad for the rest of my life — but I want to be able to believe that we’ll see each other again,” she said of her daughter. “And with his singing … it filled my heart and gave me hope.”
When Peter Lannan’s mother died last year, he knew that the musical component of his mother’s service would have been important to her.
“When we met with the funeral director, we told her that,” he said. “[Andrew] has such a beautiful voice and when he sang the first song, ‘Shepherd Me, O God,’ I think I started crying on the first verse.”
“Even though it’s a song I’ve heard a million times before, it was like hearing it for the first time,” added the 58-year-old Winchester resident. “It was very emotional.”
Tom Boudreau, a pastor at two Catholic churches — St. Michael’s in Avon and St. Joseph’s in Holbrook — said he remembers hearing Giordano (who said his voice ranges from a tenor to a high baritone) sing for the first time.
“It’s hard to put into words. I just felt like his music took me, and others, to a whole new spiritual world,” Boudreau, 50, said. “His music lifts the soul. He is so talented with such an amazing voice, and when you combine that with his connection to spirit and faith, something very special happens.”
Giordano sings at up to four funerals a week and his services are often requested in advance by family members whose loved ones are near death.
“We get requests for him all the time and when someone doesn’t have a singer in mind, I recommend him because I see how his powerful voice and caring personality bring such comfort to families,” said Janet Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Funeral Home in Burlington. “He is unique in this field because he is a professional singer who has been on Broadway.”
Giordano, an only child who was raised in Burlington, grew up wanting to sing and was transfixed by music.
‘It’s hard to put into words. I just felt like his music took me, and others, to a whole new spiritual world.’
“Since I was very young, I knew I wanted to perform,” he said following a recent Friday afternoon service at St. Barbara’s Church in Woburn, where he is the music director. “My mother said that before I could walk or talk, I would pull myself up to the stereo and bounce in time to the music and match the pitch.”
As Giordano stood in the church, two parishioners made their way up to the choir loft to tell Giordano and his accompanist Todd Theriault how much they enjoyed their music during the mass — a service that ended with a round of applause for the musicians — something that happens frequently.
“I usually go to St. Margaret’s [in Burlington], but the Mass was at 9 this morning … too early for me,” 68-year-old Maria O’Connor said with a laugh. “So I decided to come here and I am so glad I did. You are just wonderful.”
The other parishioner, Jane Ticehurst, 66, a retired nurse from Woburn, already knew Giordano. In fact, she left her former parish for St. Barbara’s largely because of Giordano’s singing.
“It’s not just me. I know there are other people who come here just to hear him sing,” she said. “I have seen many Broadway shows and when I hear Andrew sing, I can’t help but think of ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ He’s as good, if not better, than the performers who I have seen play the Phantom or Raoul.
“His voice is so strong and there’s a passion in it that just moves you. If you close your eyes and listen to his voice, you would think you’re in the audience at a Broadway show.”
Giordano’s first real role was with the Children’s Theater Workshop in Burlington when he was 4 or 5 years old. He doesn’t remember what it was, but he remembers the feeling of being on stage and knew it was where he belonged.
He went on to perform in shows in middle and high school, after which he took a gap year to perform internationally with Up With People. He then attended the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, and studied voice and musical theater at the Boston Conservatory.
After college, he began splitting his time between Boston and New York City – which he does to this day – and amassing an impressive list of stage credits in and around both cities, including “Les Miserables,” “Miss Saigon,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Sweet Charity,” and “1776,” and performing with an impressive array of performers including Alec Baldwin, Leslie Uggams, Shirley Jones, Jane Seymour, and Reba McEntire.
But since singing at the funeral of his friend’s mother in 2015, Giordano has been spending much of his time lending his musical talents to help comfort those in times of sorrow.
“It’s actually been really cathartic for me,” he said. “I used to have a huge fear of anything death-related, but now that fearfulness has been replaced by a sense of peacefulness.”
Giordano said that while funeral services are emotional, he is able to keep it together by remembering that he is providing a service that is “helping people get through a tough time.”
“It’s great to be able to do this on the side, while still working as an actor,” he said. “This isn’t what I expected to be doing, but I am happy I am. I believe you end up where you need to be.”Juliet Pennington can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org