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Organist loved what she did

July 10, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

CLEAR SPRING - After 60 years at the keyboard, Jane Cohill finds it odd not to be sitting in front of the organ console at St. Michael's Catholic Church every Sunday at 11 a.m.

"I find myself fingering the back of the pew in front of me," Cohill said.

Born and raised in the Clear Spring area, Cohill said that when she was a little girl, everyone wanted to play the piano. And she was no exception.

"Now it's expensive and kids today want to be on the run, not sitting at a piano practicing," she said.

But that wasn't the case with Cohill, who said she enjoyed the practicing. Her first teacher was Sister Mercedes at St. Mary's School beginning when she was 11.

As a senior in high school, Cohill was a member of St. Michael's. "I knew there was an organ there that wasn't being played," she said.

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Cohill mentioned that to Sister Mercedes and together they began working to bring her up to speed on that instrument.

"She taught me to play 'O Come All Ye Faithful' so I could play at Christmas," Cohill said. "Sister Mercedes also showed me the stops on the organ."

Later she was taught by Ethel Widmyer in Clear Spring.

"Then for a year, I had a teacher from the Peabody Institute in Baltimore who straightened out all my bad habits," Cohill said.

The current organ at St. Michael's was a gift from St. Augustine's in Williamsport when they got a new organ, Cohill said.

"About seven years ago, I had lessons from the late Lewis Bruun," one of one of the area's most prestigious organists, Cohill said.

"He showed me a lot of things that helped me out," she said.

Cohill said she remembers feeling embarassment when she played in front of Bruun because he was so good.

"But he said to just enjoy it," Cohill said. And she learned to do just that.

Bruun sometimes played for St. Michael's when Cohill was out. She said she hates thinking that all that talent is gone now.

Now 71, Cohill and her husband, Leo, have three children - William David Cohill who works at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Md., Mary Catherine Gargano who runs a day-care center, and Jane Marie Scibilia, a teacher in Frederick County, Md.

The couple has six grandchildren, including a baby girl who was born Monday. There are also three greatgrandchildren.

Over the years, her husband helped her by putting up the hymn numbers and setting out the music for the next Sunday.

"Now he's not well and I need to spend more time with him," she said.

The new organist for St. Michael's is Peggy Mellott. "She tapped me on the shoulder and said she would help," Cohill said, as she was ending her tenure at the church organ.

"If she needs time off, I'll be glad to make music again," Cohill said.

The congregation had a breakfast for the Cohills on June 3 at the home of members Irene and David Flynn near Clear Spring.

"They gave me this St. Cecelia medal," Cohill said, noting she is the patron saint of musicians. On the back of the gold medalion are the words, 60 years at St. Michael's.

"I don't deserve this - I was just doing what I loved," she said.

St. Michael's is across Martin Street from St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Clear Spring. The priests are the Rev. Kevin Mueller and the Rev. James Nirappel.

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