Collectively Creating: Christian group aims to be inclusive in praise

Emilee Wentland

ALL THAT JAZZ HANDS. Headed up by Michael Rambo (center front), Christian group the CollECtive Choir is set to debut their new album Deep Love Of Jesus.
ALL THAT JAZZ HANDS. Headed up by Michael Rambo (center front), Christian group the CollECtive Choir is set to debut their new album Deep Love Of Jesus.

If given the choice, most music groups would probably rather play high-profile gigs rather than lowkey ones. It makes sense: Bigger venues lead to larger audiences, which will ultimately result in more exposure. One local choir, however, will gladly play either.

CollECtive Choir, a gospel hip hop choir in Eau Claire, has played an array of venues big and small since the group coined their name in 2015. Performing at events like Eau Claire Jazz Festival and Sounds Like Summer has its perks, but Michael Rambo, the choir’s director, said his favorite place they’ve performed has been Stanley Correctional Institution.

“When we went there and they heard that Hammond organ light up, (the prisoners) knew what to do,” Rambo said, his eyes lighting up as he spoke of the attendees’ reactions. “It was like home, it felt like home for the music.”

CollECtive Choir is set to debut its first album, Deep Love of Jesus, during their Sounds Like Summer performance on June 28 in Phoenix Park. The album, which will be released online just days before the Phoenix Park performance, has been a year in the making.

Without an album out, it’s complicated to tell the choir’s story, Rambo said. So, after performing for years, the group decided it needed representation.

The songwriting process began about 2009, Rambo said, when he began writing gospel songs, like the album’s title track and “Philippians.” Other songs, like “Majestic” and “Hallelujah, He Reigns” were written by members of the choir. These songs in particular exemplify the choir’s mix of gospel and hip hop.

On their website, the group’s mission is hard to miss, sitting directly beneath the choir’s name: “collectively lifting the name of Jesus through exuberant praise.” Rambo hopes to convey that joy in each of their performances, no matter how big or small the shows may be.

Ultimately, CollECtive Choir wants to bring people together while promoting their love of Jesus Christ. Along with the group’s inclusivity principle, they also have an “unorthodox” approach to performing, Rambo said. Their shows are always interactive, and Rambo said their songs are meant for getting up and dancing. Through these shows, the choir hopes to create a sense of community among members of the choir and members of the community.

“We wanna host block parties in neighborhoods that other people maybe avoid,” Rambo said. “And … in micro ways, (we’re) trying to bring people together who might not be together.”

CollECtive Choir doesn’t only take singers with angelic voices, Rambo said, but instead they display inclusivity by accepting everyone, regardless of their singing abilities. In the past, the choir has even had homeless individuals join in, Rambo said.

“While we do shoot for excellence, we’re not the Master Singers,” Rambo explained. “... We’re going to include everyone and improve incrementally according to their skillset. But together, we can accomplish great things.”

The group is composed of about 25 regular members – each of whom sing on a volunteer basis – but it varies from season to season, Rambo said. The number of members changes with each of the choir’s concert runs, which last six weeks at a time. Their current run is in preparation for their Sounds Like Summer performance. Members are asked to commit at least six weeks to the choir, which amounts to five practices and one show.

Rambo said the choir doesn’t plan to have a short-term run and they intend to be around for a long time. In the next two years, Rambo hopes the Eau Claire community will recognize and know about CollECtive Choir.

The CollECtive Choir practices 6-7:30pm Monday nights at the Lighthouse Youth Center, 310 E. Madison St. Their next performance is set for Thursday, June 28 at the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series in Phoenix Park.

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