When it comes to holiday entertainment for young and old, it’s hard to beat the Evanston Dance Ensemble dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, performed by the Evanston Symphony Orchestra. The ESO will once again gather with arts groups from throughout Evanston and the North Shore to celebrate the holiday season at its annual holiday extravaganza. This year’s Holiday Concert returns to Evanston Township High School at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. It features the ESO in collaboration with the North Shore Choral Society, the Evanston Dance Ensemble, the Evanston Children’s Choir, the Advanced Vocal Ensemble from Evanston Township High School, plus the very popular Evanston Symphony Holiday Gospel Choir, organized by Rev. Kenneth Cherry.

With 350 musicians, dancers and singers participating and more than 1,000 in the audience, this is the biggest indoor arts event of the year in Evanston. Even Santa will get into the act, leading the audience in a sing-along of favorite Christmas carols.

“The ESO Holiday Concert is special because we are able to collaborate with so many local arts organizations in the same concert,” said ESO Music Director Lawrence Eckerling. “And because there are so many different organizations participating, with so many styles of music, it provides us with an opportunity to entertain the largest possible audience base in our community, from many different backgrounds, and many different ages.”

The afternoon concert feature everyone’s favorite holiday music and music that may be new even to sophisticated concert goers. The full orchestra will play the Sleigh Ride of Leroy Anderson, Nigel Hess’ Christmas Overture featuring all your favorite carols, and Robert Wendel’s A Chanukah Overture. Back by popular demand are the Evanston Dance Ensemble’s tap-dancing reindeer danced to Nutcracker Suite.  The ESO will perform Tracey Rush’s touching Angels in the Snow with the North Shore Choral Society and the Evanston Children’s Choir. The ECC will also sing “Believe” from A Polar Express. And our very own Gospel Choir, led by Rev. Cherry and accompanied by the full symphony, will sing Oh What A Pretty Baby.

The North Shore Choral Society will also join the ESO in selections from Handel’s the “Hallelujah Chorus” from the Messiah. For the grand finale, the NSCS, the Evanston Children’s Choir, the Advanced Vocal Ensemble and the ESO will be joined by the gospel choir in the “Hallelujah” from Quincy Jones’ “Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration”, using an orchestration specially commissioned by Evanston Symphony. You’ll go out dancing with this number, we promise.

The Evanston Symphony Holiday Concert takes place 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8 at Evanston Township High School auditorium, 1600 Dodge Ave. in Evanston. For more information, and to take advantage of early pricing discounts by ordering tickets in advance, visit www.evanstonsymphony.org or call 847-864-8804.