Joanna Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Joanna lyrics)
Joanna, best known as the ethereal lead singer and songwriter with Europe's most popular Christian band Iona, was born in Northern Ireland. Her father is a Presbyterian minister, her mother was a nurse, and she has three sisters and two brothers. With three doctors and a nurse already in the family, it seemed natural that Joanna was bound for a career in medicine. However, life thrives on the unexpected, and today Joanna, still a member of Iona, is now releasing her first solo album on ForeFront Records, a collection of traditional and contemporary worship songs entitled Looking Into Light (Celtic Hymns).
Joanna went to Queens University in Belfast to study medicine. After her third year, she heard about an organization in Holland called Christian Artists that sparked her interest. Joanna was heard singing at the Christian Artists talent evaluation by a staff worker for Youth For Christ in Denmark who immediately invited her to work with them for a year doing school ministry work. Against all odds, she managed to talk her University into the idea and completed her year with YFC in Denmark. After a year of work, Joanna returned to the University to complete her remaining two years until graduation.
Soon after working as a junior doctor in Belfast Hospital, she was invited to form a band. In 1989, Joanna stopped practicing medicine, Iona was begun, and the band has progressed over the last ten years. In this time, Joanna has sung all over Europe and in America, and Iona's recordings are sold worldwide, making them Europe's best selling contemporary Christian band.
In recent years, a number of members of Iona have recorded solo albums that have reflected other areas of their musical expression, and although it seemed obvious that Joanna should have a solo project, she never felt the need-until now.
The idea for Looking Into Light came from Joanna's father who had been very moved by Iona's recording of "When I Survey." Not being much of a fan of contemporary music, he made the suggestion that Joanna should record a complete album of hymns. The idea was quickly dismissed by Joanna and given little consideration until the sudden death of her mother in February 1997. The gradual selection of hymns which had been so much a part of her family life began and continued over the next year.
There were a few obvious choices for Joanna. Some songs had Celtic melodic qualities such as "Be Thou My Vision," "O The Deep, Deep Love Of Jesus" and "I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say." Having grown up in a Presbyterian environment, Joanna had access to many hymn books and the net was thrown even wider. A hymn that simply could not be left out, even though Joanna has recorded it twice before and has sung many times is "When I Survey" as this was definitely one of her Dad's favorites and had given rise to the original idea of recording an album of hymns.
Another hymn which is special to Joanna's family is "Brightest And Best." This carol was first introduced to Joanna's parents by a visiting minister in 1947 when they were missionaries in India on their first Christmas away from Ireland. Joanna remembers her father introducing this song to the various congregations they later joined as she and her siblings grew up, so it seemed natural that Joanna was joined by her three sisters on the album to record this song which has become so familiar to them all.
Looking Into Light also features the atmospheric sounds of the sea which Joanna recorded on a DAT recorder in a cave in Ireland which helps transport the listener to one of the places which has inspired Joanna's song writing so many times. The album features many old friends who contribute their array of musical talent including: Dave Bainbridge - guitars, keyboards & bouzouki; Troy Donockley - Uilleann pipes, low whistles; Phil Barker - bass guitar; new Iona member Frank van Essen - Percussion, Drums, Violin; Nick Beggs - Fretless Bass, Chapman Stick; Terl Bryant - Drums, Percussion; Dave Fitzgerald - Flute, Tin Whistle; Chris Redgate - Oboe and the Emperor String Quartet and not forgetting Joanna's sisters Helen, Doreen and Muriel who join her on "Brightest and Best."
The album has been superbly produced by Dave Bainbridge, engineered by Nigel Palmer and contains twelve classic hymns which run to more than an hour of listening. Joanna says, "As I have turned the hymn book pages I've found inspiring expressions of reverence and love for God and deep thankfulness for His mercy. This is part of my heritage and so, with much love and thanks, I dedicate this album to my dad."