E.C. Beats

Exploring the sound of local artists. This week: CollECtive Choir


Photo by Sydney Purpora

The gospel hip-hop group, CollECtive Choir, performed at the 2017 Eau Claire Jazz Festival Friday, April 21. The group performed in the middle of the road at the 300 block of S. Barstow.

In a city with a large music scene, a local group is pushing the envelope with their own sound that takes a new approach on a traditional genre in an attempt to bring the community together through the word of God.

“As an art style itself, gospel music carries its own weight it is a reputable style,” Michael Rambo said. “I am convinced that celebration is a part of how we have been made, and we just have lost touch with how to express that. And with this type of music, of all of the music that I play, I feel most fully engaged. Most fully alive.”

It is through Rambo’s love for gospel music and appreciation of hip-hop that a music group combining the two genres was born.

CollECtive Choir is a gospel hip-hop group built from a collection of people with a variety of backgrounds all with the same musical goal in conjunction with their mission statement: “To collECtively lift the name of Jesus through exuberant praise.”

Rambo, a UW-Eau Claire alumnus who studied music performance, is the the curator of CollECtive Choir. After meeting his wife in college, he got into church work and started performing with a variety of bands.

“I have just always had it on my heart to be involved with the community in different ways with music,” Rambo said.

Previously working as a music director for a gospel choir for four years at Tabernacle of Praise church in Eau Claire, Rambo said the idea for the group sparked from a need he felt to bring the music outside of the church and into the community.

After attending a Harlem Gospel Choir concert and seeing the audience reactions, he said he knew he had to take the feeling he had and make it bigger.

“Normally if you were to talk to people about Jesus Christ or talk about religion in general, it is kind of a taboo subject matter,” Rambo said, “and yet these people were doing it on the stage and it didn’t seem offensive. Like everybody just got it, because there is just an infectious atmosphere with the music.”

Currently, CollECtive Choir has a membership total of roughly 100; however, with each performance, Rambo said the choir size fluctuates. Additionally, the group has multiple musicians filling the roles of drummer, guitarist and bassist.

An Eau Claire community member, Susan Larson, has been a part of the choir for a little over two years. She got connected with the group through her friendship with Rambo.

Although performing this type of music is out of her comfort zone, Larson said is happy she did it because she got to experience something new and push herself on a creative level. From her experience so far she said her favorite part is not only the support she gets from other members, but also the bond she creates with the audience.

“I just find it to be a great way to connect with people and being about to sing for people,” Larson said. “It helps the just have a special moment.”

The name CollECtive Choir, Rambo said, was crafted when one of his friends who owns a non-profit music ministry, 513FREE, created a promotional poster for one of their first shows and decided to call them the Collective Choir. From there, Rambo said he stuck with the name because it represents the collective aspect of the group and added a capital “EC” in the middle to tie it to the city.

So far the group has performed in many shows including the 2017 Eau Claire Jazz Festival, but their music is only available for those who attend their live concerts. Rambo said he plans to turn out albums in the near future.

“The choir is really going to fulfill this idea that community can come together and can reach multiple generations, multiple ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds,” Rambo said. “We can come together under one roof and make excellent music together.”