In January 1986, Chicago Bears fever invaded Orchestra Hall.
According to Norman Pellegrini (longtime WFMT program director as well as producer and host of CSO radio broadcasts): “At the end of a Tchaikovsky–Liszt orchestral concert with Sir Georg Solti conducting [on January 23] . . . applause kept the maestro returning to center stage. Suddenly, members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus—wearing Bears sweatshirts—streamed onstage, and Solti led the Orchestra and Chorus in a rousing rendition of the Bears’ fight song, “Bear Down, Chicago Bears” [written by Al Hoffman under the pseudonym Jerry Downs in 1941]. The audience joined in singing, and in the two repeats of the concert, the same thing happened with even more ‘performers’ onstage. Backstage people, Chicago Symphony Orchestra staff, and others—including Lady Valerie Solti—crowded in to sing along.”
Solti and the Orchestra recorded the fight song—along with The Star-Spangled Banner (also with the Chorus) and John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever—for London Records on January 27. It was released a few months later on a tremendously popular album in conjunction with the annual Marathon fundraiser. A live version from January 23 also was released on Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fortieth Anniversary Celebration in the spring of 1998, in conjunction with the annual Radiothon fundraiser.