Tribute to Mr. Alex Encheff
On November 3, 2005 a man named Alex Encheff passed away at the age of 86. He was not just your average person. He was a loving, dedicated husband, father, teacher and a Christian man.
As a young man, he went to college in Colorado and earned not just one degree, but two. One in engineering and the other in music his first love. In the mid 1950’s he started working as a teacher at Western High School in Anaheim, Ca. Mr. Encheff, would teach one or two classes of math during the day and Choir Director for the balance of the day. Mr. Encheff was not just your ordinary choir director. He was the brainchild, engineer, and the creator of the original Singing Christmas Tree that spanned 24 years.
Mr. E, as all of us kids would call him, loved music so much that he wanted to pass it onto as many kids as he could. He was a special person who loved and cared for each of his students. Every one of his students felt that love, and we all gave that love caring and a lot of respect in return. Any students that were having problems in school, Mr. E would have them come to the classroom, sit down, and just listen to them. When the student was finished talking, Mr. E would give his point of view and give them encouragement and to try harder. If that student needed extra help Mr. E would help them out.
Mr. E, always with a smile on his face, was always encouraging all of us in choir to do our best. But if one of his choir kids would come up during class and told him that he/she was having a problem with one of their classes, or had not completed their homework, Mr. E would ask the whole class if there were any issues and if hands were raised Mr. E would have them all come to the choir room during lunchtime to help them complete the work.
The choir students would show that love, caring and dedication right back. Normally, school would start at the end of August. Not the choir kids, we would start right after the July 4th. with rehearsals so as to help get the new kids from the Junior High Schools ready for our concert season. During the summer, we would rehearse two nights a week until school would start. If we were going on a trip you can add on other things to do like paper drives, rummage sales, car washes just to make money for the trip. When school finally did start, by the second week, we would start school at 7:00 am to rehearse until 9:00 am then go to classes. We also rehearsed two nights a week from 7:00 pm to 9:00pm. All of this just to be ready for Capital Records to cut our album and to be ready for our concert season in December.
Mr. Encheff’s kids did not just do it all for a grade. We did it for the love and respect for the man. For Mr. Encheff it was always about his “kids”. Mr. Encheff took it to another step. With about 80 to 100 kids singing on the Tree, the ratio was always 3 to 1, or 75 girls to 25 boys. When you broke it down into tenors and basses sections, that came out to be 12 ˝ tenors and 12 ˝ basses give or take some. Mr. Encheff would have the boys go to his home one or two nights a week for about 2/3 weeks for extra rehearsals. Of course with Mrs. Encheff’s permission. Ha,Ha. Mrs. Encheff was our second mom away from mom. Always making sure that we had enough to eat and drink, Mrs. E also would ask us how we were feeling and to make sure that we took care of our selves so we would not get sick.
(We all Loved Mrs. Encheff.)
The choir mostly sang around Southern California. One of the high points during our concert season would be singing at Disneyland at the Candlelight Ceremony on the Tree.
The choir did travel around some also. There were at least five trips that I know of. Two to Canada in 1960 and 1980 - my wife Pandi was the star of the tree in 1979/1980 - and one to San Francisco in 1967. In 1974 and 1976 the choir went to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to sing for the 33rd and 35th National Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association Memorial Program, with 1976 also being our nations 200th Birthday. Mr. Encheff informed the choir in 1976 that we were to be the first choir ever to sing on the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.
Mr. Encheff has given each and everyone of his kids a little peace of himself by just being the person he was. I know that there has not been one day for anyone from Western High School Singing Christmas Tree Alumni that does not think of Mr. Encheff. Mr. Encheff will always be in our hearts and thoughts for the rest of our lives.
In my heart when it is my turn to go to heaven to be with God, God will meet me at the Golden Gates and as I pass through, God will turn to me and point to the right hand side of the gates. And there will be Mr. Encheff with his pin light in his right hand. Mr. Encheff will turn to me and point to the larger than life Singing Christmas Tree full of choir members that came up before me and tell me to take my spot on the third row from the top on the left hand side of the Tree. We will all start singing all of our songs. When all of the choir members have arrived in heaven and have taken there place on the Tree, we all will start singing the Hallelujah Chorus.
Mr. Alex Encheff (Mr. E) has given so much to so many young adults through out his years as a choir director and as a person. Other than my parents, my two brothers and my wife. Mr. Alex Encheff (Mr. E) has been, and always will be, a big influence in my life.
My God Bless Mr. Encheff forever.
Class of 1977
1974 & 1976 Pearl Harbor Trips.
Western High School Letter Re: Pearl Harbor Invitation
Western High School Letter The Singing Christmas Tree
Western High School Letter The Singing Christmas Tree Program1
Western High School Letter The Singing Christmas Tree Program2
Western High School Letter Newspaper Clipping of Pearl Harbor Event1
Western High School Letter Newspaper Clipping of Pearl Harbor Event2
Submitted for posting to the PearlHarborSurvivors.org web site: March, 2006 with our "Thanks to Bruce" and with "Our Appreciation to Mr. Encheff for his years of dedication and devotion to His Kids and in sharing their special talents with the Pearl Harbor Survivors. We also thank him for sharing the history and memories of Pearl Harbor with them. If any of Mr. Encheff's Kids wish to add their own tribute to this memorial to him, please e-mail me: Doris Newnam
Another Texas D Web Site
©2005-2006 All Rights Reserved
WebMaster: Doris Newnam