By Stephen M. Silverman And Liza Hamm
Updated September 30, 2002 12:00 PM

Most people know Katie Holmes as Joey Potter on TV’s “Dawson Creek,” but to Stephen Gaghan, who directed her new movie “Abandon,” she is also a songbird, the filmmaker tells PEOPLE.

In the dramatic thriller, which also stars Benjamin Bratt, Holmes, 23, plays Catherine Burke, a senior facing life’s pressures as she graduates from an elite college. To compound her problems, she’s still getting over a boyfriend who disappeared.

But back to her singing. Said Gaghan, who’s directing his first movie (he won a screenwriting Oscar for the drug-war thriller “Traffic”): “Katie has this incredible voice. We had prepared a 16th century choral arrangement that she was going to have to sing with a professional choir. We didn’t know if she could sing. She said she sang a little bit.”

And what happened? “She opens her mouth,” said Gaghan, “and sings like William Byrd from, like, 1580. I was blown away. It’s like a gift. You feel like you’re watching God come out through a person. I ended up getting her together with the composer of the film. She was in Los Angeles one day, and on the spur of the moment we had her come up to his studio and sing the opening theme of the movie. She sings the opening theme like Mia Farrow in ‘Rosemary’s Baby.'”

When not singing on screen, Holmes can still be seen on “Dawson’s.” Asked what will be up with Joey Potter this season on the WB series, the actress revealed, “It’s going to be an exciting year for her. She and Dawson, let’s say, there are experiences left between them that they are going to explore this season. She has a little bit of a harder time with a new professor this year. And maybe she’ll meet somebody. She’s very excited about the year.”