Sad news: Washington mourns music giant

Sad news: Washington mourns music giant


norman lebrecht

June 10, 2016

The Washington Bach Consort has announced the sudden death of its founder and leader, J. Reilly Lewis.

Reilly, who was also music director of the Cathedral Choral Society, stood at the heart of baroque and religious music in the capital. He was 72 and extremely vibrant. Musicians across DC are in shock.

Here’s the WBC statement:

reilly lewis


It is with profound sadness that we inform you that Dr. J. Reilly Lewis passed away of a sudden heart attack last night. According to his wife Beth, he enjoyed a wonderful day yesterday, rehearsing music and driving with the top down on his Jaguar.

Reilly was our founder, conductor, Artistic Director, and much more… he was our leader, our center. Reilly was our friend. We’re shocked and saddened by this tragedy. We’re working with Beth and will announce funeral arrangements as they become available.

Reilly was such a wonderful, special person, but only his love of each of you surpassed his love of Bach and great music. I can’t begin to say how saddened we are and how much we’ll miss Reilly. Our deepest sympathies to Beth and all who mourn.


  • PaulD says:

    This indeed is very sad news. His, and the Consort’s, Tuesday Cantata series bring an hour of beauty into the dull bureaucratic district. Mr. Lewis really conveyed his enthusiasm for the music to the audience in his pre-concert remarks. He will be missed.

  • Arlene C Williams says:

    The world has lost a musical giant. As past president of Chorus America his many many contributions to the performance of great music was paramount. Love to the people who experienced his music making daily and to his family deepest sympathies.

  • Neil Thompson Shade says:

    Very sad loss. I enjoyed many concerts by J. Reilly Lewis when I lived in Washington, DC.

  • ilse rubio says:

    a tremendous loss for the washington classical music community. his love and understanding of Bach’s music enriched all our lives. we will miss him and hope that his legacy will continue.

  • I am shocked by this. Just the Sunday before last Reilly came backstage at a concert of mine in his usual ebullient, gracious and supportive way. He became a colleague and friend only a few years ago but, due to his honesty and affectionate nature, it feels like I knew him a lot longer.