Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

A little over four months ago the Washington Bach Consort was launched. It is under the direction of J. Reilly Lewis, one of those dedicated, indefatigable proselytizers for the arts who will tackle the odds against his high ideals, regardless of their apparent impracticality.

Sunday night at the National Presbyterian Center, Lewis and the 50 or so volunteer singers and instrumentalists of the Consort humbled any and all who had thought his goal - the gradual exploration of Bach's enormous musical corpus - to be pie-in-the-sky.

The work was the St. John Passion, that almost 2 1/2-hour panoramic drama of the death of Christ for chorus, orchestra and 10 soloists that is one of music's most wrenching depictions of self-sacrifice - In this case that of Christ for the salvation of man.

Admittedly there were rough spots, and some pitch problems, particularly with the baroque instruments, like the viola da gamba and the viola d'amore.

But these were minor matters compared with what might have gone wrong with a new group taking one of music's mightier challenges in only its fifth concert. Most people would have told Lewis he was a fool todo it. And we would have been wrong.