Can you imagine John Williams, in person, conducting the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a concert of his film scores? That’s exactly what “A Toast to John Williams” was!

Maestro John Williams teamed with Richard Kaufman, longtime conductor of the CSO at the Movies series, to lead a performance April 29 of a selection of music from film scores written by the legendary composer. Music lovers of all ages were treated to the thrilling sounds of “Star Wars,” “E.T., the Extraterrestrial,” “Lincoln,” “Indiana Jones,” “Home Alone” and many more. The thunderous applause from the audience demonstrated the love and appreciation the people of Chicago have for Maestro Williams and his enduring music.

To make the day even more special, the League of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association sponsored a festive gala titled “A Toast to John Williams” in Grainger Ballroom. The participants had the opportunity to experience a Hollywood atmosphere in which the guests actually got the chance to walk on a red carpet.

The pre-concert reception, including a silent auction, started at 1:30 p.m., followed by the CSO concert at 3 p.m. The festivities continued with a post-concert soiree consisting of refreshments, a buffet and the continuation of a star-studded silent auction.  As a special treat for the guests, Maestro Kaufman attended the post-concert reception and spoke about conducting film scores, as well as behind-the-scenes anecdotes about Hollywood and making movies. To further enhance the Hollywood theme, music was provided by the celebrated Chicago jazz pianist Chris White, who entertained with popular jazz selections, including renditions of some of Williams’ classics.

The silent auction was just what any brave Jedi could wish for: bidders could choose from packages such as “Raiders of the Lost Archives,” “Close Encounters of the Brass Kind,” “The Empire of the Sun” and “In a Galaxy Far, Far Away.” The themed packages included tantalizing trips and accommodations to exciting destinations, live musical performances by some of the best musicians in Chicago, fine dining opportunities, cultural and educational experiences for the family, “Star Wars” concert tickets, and many other priceless offerings.

“A Toast to John Williams” was a highly successful and enjoyable event. In fact, a record total of 187 League members and guests attended the festive gala. Mimi Duginger, League president, said, “The concert in Orchestra Hall with Williams conducting the CSO was nothing short of magical. Our pre- and post-concert receptions in Grainger were fun, fun, fun! The silent auction packages were so creative and absolutely irresistible!”

“The Toast to John Williams” was indeed an “out of this world” experience from start to finish, but the journey continues . . .

In late June, Richard Kaufman will return to Orchestra Hall to conduct Williams’ iconic Oscar-winning score of “Star Wars: A New Hope.” Concertgoers will experience the actual movie while enjoying the musical score performed by the renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

For more information about the “Star Wars” concerts June 27-30, click here.

TOP: John Williams is greeted backstage by Mimi Duginger, president of the League of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. | Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018