Dr. J. Reilly Lewis

Founder (1944–2016)

Dr. J. Reilly Lewis (1944–2016) was an American choral conductor and keyboard artist specializing in baroque music, particularly the music of J. S. Bach. Born in Vallejo, California, he attended Oberlin College and received masters and doctoral degrees from Juilliard. As a Fulbright Scholar, he spent a year studying conducting, organ and harpsichord in Frankfurt, Germany. At the time of his death, he was the founder and artistic director of the Washington Bach Consort, music director of Cathedral Choral Society, and the organist and choirmaster at Clarendon United Methodist Church in Arlington, VA. He is survived by his wife, his daughter, and his grandson.

In Memoriam: Dr. J. Reilly Lewis, Founder, 1944–2016

There are no words to express the grief and sadness we feel at the unexpected passing of our dear friend and leader Dr. J. Reilly Lewis on June 9, 2016.

Not only our founder, conductor, and Artistic Director of the Washington Bach Consort, Reilly was a beloved fixture in DC’s classical music community. An exceptional musician with a passion for baroque music, he became one of the world’s leading Bach specialists.

His talents took his performance and conducting career across America and throughout Germany and Europe. Despite his travels, he called Washington, DC home for nearly all his life. For that, and for the community of musicians and music lovers he built for us here, we are all thankful.

“No matter how successful we became, no matter how many awards we received, or where we toured, what mattered most to Reilly was the music,” said Bach Consort Executive Director, Marc Eisenberg. “As our organization grew, Reilly developed deep connections with people. It was the music that started these relationships, but it was Reilly who sustained these incredible friendships. For Reilly, his work with the Bach Consort wasn’t a job, it was his passion and pleasure.” The Bach Consort’s official statement on J. Reilly Lewis’ death can be found here.

On June 16, 2016, friends and loved ones celebrated Reilly’s life and love of music with a beautiful service at the Washington National Cathedral, where he began his musical career in the junior boys choir. A recording of the musical prelude and funeral service is available for viewing here.

Articles about Reilly’s full life and amazing accomplishments can be found here.

To honor Reilly’s legacy, please consider making a monthly donation of $10 or more. For more information, please visit here.

Tribute to J. Reilly Lewis (1944-2016) | Washington Bach Consort
Commissioned for the 40th Anniversary of the Washington Bach Consort, founded by J. Reilly Lewis (1944-2016). First presented at the Residence of the Belgian Ambassador on May 10, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

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