The Evanston Township High School auditorium was filled Sunday afternoon when conductor Lawrence Eckerling, who is music director of the Evanston Symphony Orchestra, lifted his baton to lead his colleagues in the classic piece Sleigh Ride, which Leroy Anderson actually composed on a hot day in July 1950.

Credit: Susy Schultz

The concert proceeded from sleighs to bells to waltzes to marches as well as more holiday classics, as the orchestra shared the stage with the artistry of the Evanston Dance Ensemble, Chicago Ballet Arts, Evanston Children’s Choir, North Shore Choral Society and the Evanston Symphony Holiday Gospel Choir.

ESO Music Director Lawrence Eckerling raises his baton to lead the orchestra in holiday classics. Credit: Susy Schultz

The Evanston Dance Ensemble and the Evanston Children’s Choir joined the orchestra for “Waltz of the Snowflakes” from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, composed in 1892 it was one of only three ballet’s by the composer.

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The concert touched on music from many cultures, including “The Driedel Song,” sung by the North Shore Choral Society. The song was written in the late 1920s by the Goldfarb brothers, with music composed by Samuel Goldfarb and lyrics written by Samuel Schlomo Grossman. 

The classic Dreidel song, sung by the North Shore Choral Society.

The Evanston Dance Ensemble took an old dance and a few old Christmas carols and brightened all of it up with the orchestra. The Ensemble brought a colorful twist to the old songs for something new and fun.

Santa, who looked a lot like the Gospel Choir’s Music Director Rev. Ken Cherry, also stopped by and brought a whole bunch of elves, who looked a lot like the members of the Evanston Children’s Choir. They handed out candy to the children of all ages in the audience. And Santa helped the orchestra pick the winners of the annual raffle.

As the program began to wind down, all of the choirs and the orchestra brought out the power holiday finale, the Hallelujah Chorus from George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. Written in 1741, it still packs a punch, in whatever form it takes. Here is the North Shore Choral Society’s classical version. Breathtaking. (And how many people know that it is tradition, believed to date back to the 1700s, to stand whenever Handel’s Messiah is played? At ETHS, there were pockets of people standing but it certainly was not everyone – is this tradition fading away?)

Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah.

Here is the opening of the finale started by the North Shore Choral Society and the Evanston Children’s Choir, who are joined by the Evanston Symphony Holiday Goespel Choir singing “Hallalujah” from Quincy Jones’ rendition of Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Christmas.

And here are the final minutes of the show as the Evanston Symphony Holiday Gospel Choir takes the lead with all the choirs, including the Evanston Children’s Choir and the North Shore Choral Society, in finishing Quincy Jones’ version of Handel’s Messiah.

But before people left, they were able to pick up a poinsettia that had been adorning the stage during the concert. The Christmas flowers went for $10 each.

Susy Schultz

Susy Schultz is the editor of the Evanston Roundtable. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and is the former president of Public Narrative, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching journalists and...

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  1. “And here are the final minutes of the show as the Evanston Symphony Holiday Gospel Choir concludes Jones’ version of Handel’s Messiah.” Should add “with the North Shore Choral Society.”