Stacks Image 16
Be the first to comment!
0 / 4000
8 - 6 = ?






MLK Celebration


The CollECtive Choir was a blessing to our Sunday service. Their unity with one another and desire to worship God with abandonment was evident throughout the morning. The way that they led Valleybrook in worship encouraged and inspired us. Mike was also wonderful to work with in preparing for Sunday. They will be a blessing to whatever church they partner with.

Nate Abuan (Associate Pastor, Valleybrook Church)



Standing before a crowd of more than 100 people who filled each pew of St. James the Greater Catholic Church in Eau Claire Monday evening in order to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., Beryle Middleton reflected on years past.

Not that long ago, had those same people — of all different ages, socioeconomic status, race, ethnic background — gathered, they would’ve been targeted for standing together against racial injustice and prejudices and fighting that hate with love and nonviolence.

“Maybe even less than a decade ago, this church would’ve been a target for a bomb,” Middleton, director of Uniting Bridges, told the crowd. “But Dr. King’s message is very strong in this room tonight.”

Middleton was one of the dozens who spoke, read and sang at Eau Claire’s annual sunset ceremony commemorating and recognizing King as a key leader of the civil rights movement, whose actions and words, written and spoken, continue to inspire today.

The ceremony, which was organized by Uniting Bridges and sponsored by numerous community businesses and organizations, consisted of songs, readings of some of King’s most famous speeches and writings, as well as remarks from leaders of government, religion and education in the community, who connected King’s work during the civil rights to how they can — and should — be applied to today’s world.

Voices young and old recited the iconic words of King’s “Give Us the Ballot,” “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” and, of course, “I Have a Dream.”

Musical performers at the event included Eau Claire’s CollECtive Choir, who had audience members clapping and swaying along with their rendition of “Where Is the Love?” as well as the Chippewa Valley Youth Choir, which closed the night of music with a rendition of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love.)”

During her remarks, Rep. Jodi Emerson, D-Eau Claire, reflected on a trip a few years back to Washington.

She couldn’t help but notice the great disparity she saw before her — dozens of people lined up to get a free meal at a church near the White House. Homeless veterans slept in a park near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

All of this led Emerson to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, where she thought of Abraham Lincoln’s courage in fighting slavery, and King, who was beaten, jailed and assassinated while standing up for equal rights for all.

That same courage should prevail today in fighting for justice and equality, Emerson said.

“I’m going to assume we all have a similar dream as Dr. King; that we all want what is best for our entire community,” Emerson said. “How do we get there? We need to start by truly examining where we are today. For many people, life in Eau Claire, life in Wisconsin is good. ... But many of our brothers and sisters do not have a good life. How can we, inspired by the memory of Dr. King help lift others up? Because if things are not working for everyone in our community, our community is not truly working.”

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt closed the evening with words from King’s speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop:” “Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”

“Clearly, those words, while intended to inspire civil rights activists working for justice in the late ‘60s, still hold relevance today,” Schmidt said. “We must all do what we can to continue the work of achieving Dr. King’s dream in which people of all backgrounds can contribute to a better life for everyone. ... We can all leave here inspired to do our part in Dr. King’s words: To make America what it ought to be.”

Contact: 715-833-9206,, @SamanthaWest196 on Twitter


The CollECtive Choir rehearsing at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi for MLK Day.” title=
The CollECtive Choir rehearsing at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi for MLK Day.

Rehearse with CollECtive Choir
for MLK day!

Monday  21 January  2019  5:00 PM    Monday  21 January  2019 7:15 PM

Sing with Eau Claire's CollECtive Choir as we prepare for the City commemoration for MLK on the 21st at St. James the Greater Catholic Church. The CollECtive Choir is a diverse, community non-profit Gospel and Hip Hop choir that seeks to "CollECtively proclaim Jesus through exuberant praise." They are aiding an organization called "Uniting Bridges" to help the city commemorate the life and work of a man devoted to the Kingdom of God and dignity for all. 2 Monday rehearsals and then the sound check and run-through rehearsal before the commemoration on the 21st...


The CollECtive Choir's story is reported by Emilee Wentland. presenting at the 'Sounds Like Summer' concert at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi.
The CollECtive Choir's story is reported by Emilee Wentland. presenting at the 'Sounds Like Summer' concert at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi

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. 









Cues From Katy reports about The CollECtive Choir presenting at the 'Sounds Like Summer' concert at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi.
Cues From Katy reports about The CollECtive Choir presenting at the 'Sounds Like Summer' concert at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi.

Editor’s note: Cues From Katy is a list of events entertainment reporter Katy Macek thinks are worth checking out this weekend.

1. CollECtive Choir at Sounds Like Summer (6 to 8 p.m. today at Phoenix Park, 330 Riverfront Terrace): Maybe you’ve heard about CollECtive Choir, maybe you’ve seen — or even joined in — their practices Monday nights in Phoenix Park or maybe you have no idea who I’m talking about.

No matter which of the above categories you fall into, you should come to see this show. This is a community choir open to any and everybody, and the group recently completed its first album, “Deep Love of Jesus,” which they’ll debut at this event. It’s entirely original music composed by director Mike Rambo and sung in a beautiful arrangement.

Plus, they will be joined by gospel hip-hop artist Tru Serva, based out of Minneapolis, who is also featured on the album.

Musicians The Over Unders and Sage Leary will also perform. If you only make it to one Sounds Like Summer concert this year, make it this one.


The CollECtive Choir rehearsing at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi.
The CollECtive Choir rehearsing at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi.

The CollECtive Choir rehearsing at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi.
The CollECtive Choir rehearsing at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi

The CollECtive Choir rehearsing at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi.
The CollECtive Choir rehearsing at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire Wi

Choir aims to be force of inclusivity, unity in Eau Claire

Members of CollECtive Choir, directed by Mike Rambo, rehearse Monday at the Phoenix Park pavilion. The choir is made up of members of all different races, ages, faiths and backgrounds who sing gospel hip-hop music in the hopes of bringing people together.

Standing in front of Eau Claire’s CollECtive Choir members Monday evening at the Phoenix Park farmer’s market pavilion, the choir director reminded everyone of their ultimate goal before a June 28 Sounds Like Summer concert series appearance. 

“Our goal is to be one voice, which of course I think is symbolic as well,” Mike Rambo told the group before leading them into the opening of his original song “For the Joy.” 

Of course that is the goal of any choir, but for this particular group it means a little bit more. CollECtive Choir is a community gospel hip-hop choir open to anyone of all ages and singing abilities. Rambo said the group aims to “sing exuberant praise to Jesus” and share that love as well as bring people together. 

Rambo also composes and arranges music for the choir. 

“We’re not going to just focus on the art, we’re going to focus on the relationships and restoring community, but when you’re in Eau Claire, especially the downtown area, it really values original art,” Rambo said. “We certainly have that as a part of what we sing.” 

The choir, which received nonprofit status in January, is set to release its first original CD. “Deep Love of Jesus” is a collection of eight songs recorded by the group and featuring musicians such as Tru Serva, a Minneapolis-based gospel rap artist, and local artists such as Eric Thompson, Adam Harder-Hussbaum, Jennifer Davis and others. 

While Rambo’s goal is to make the choir more known in the community by producing more original music in the future, he doesn’t have expectations of fame and fortune. He thinks what they have to offer is worth so much more. 

Musical collective

The choir formed as a vision of Rambo and his friend Phil Jennings in 2015. Jennings has since passed away, and Rambo wanted to see his idea followed through.

From its first rehearsal in 2015 that saw just three people, Rambo said the group has grown to around 20 to 25 active members, with many others who pop in throughout the year. 

The idea for gospel hip-hop, perhaps a unique stylistic choice for a city in northwestern Wisconsin, was born because Rambo said he thought it would appeal to a wide audience.

“I’ve found gospel to be very palatable to the general public simply because it is fun and it’s dancy,” Rambo said. “Even if you’re not from a church background, you get it, you know when to clap along. They are simple songs where it’s easy to invite participation even if you’ve never heard it before.” 

Fun, yes, but not always easy. Rambo said rehearsals can be difficult, but he’s proud of how far the group has come since its inception. 

“It’s a very demanding style,” he said. “We’re not awesome at it, but we’re getting better and it’s fun, and I’m learning a lot.” 

Gloria Godchaux recalls hearing about the choir in 2015 through an ad in Volume One that she thinks said something along the lines of “if you like to sing, come and sing with the gospel hip-hop choir.”

“That was very intriguing to me, the gospel with the hip-hop,” Godchaux recalled.

Three years later, she is president of the choir’s board of directors and the music still moves her. Even if she doesn’t feel like coming to practice, she said she’s always glad to be there because it fills her with such joy. 

Godchaux said hearing a couple of the new album’s recordings is still mind-boggling. 

“It’s kind of crazy that we actually have an album,” she said.

Most of the music on the album are Rambo’s originals, though the song “Holy, Holy, Holy” is an arrangement of a church hymn that Rambo said they “gospelified.” 

Rambo, an Eau Claire native who has been in several bands, has never directed a choir before this. He reached out to local musicians and friends, such as Matt Mattoon, the sound engineer for the project, for help. 

“Deep Love of Jesus” will officially be released during the choir’s Sounds Like Summer performance from 6 to 8 p.m. June 28 in Phoenix Park. 

However, Rambo said they will have copies of the CD available at performances before then, including one June 2 at Ecclesia’s North Riverfront Community Party at North River Fronts Park. 

He is excited to lay the groundwork for what could be a pivotal organization in Eau Claire, and he hopes that’s what CollECtive Choir audiences see this summer. 

“It’s really powerful as a medium to show Eau Claire different people sharing a platform together,” Rambo said. “The choir itself is the art, even though we do also aspire to be good.” 

Crossing boundaries

While Godchaux loves the music, she quickly learned the choir was about more than singing. By practicing in a public space — in the summers at Phoenix Park and the rest of the year at the Lighthouse Youth Center — she said they attract members of the community from all walks of life. It has led to an openness and trust between people of many backgrounds.

“The choir is a good representation that people of different faiths, colors, ages, can come together and be unified through music,” Godchaux said. “It is a good representation of what unity looks like.”

Since it began, Rambo said 15 different churches of various faiths have been represented. They’ve practiced with homeless people, youth at the Lighthouse, people of African American, Hmong and Hispanic descent and a wide array of socioeconomic backgrounds.

More than music, the choir is a place for community. And that’s what Shane Curren, who joined the choir as another creative outlet about a year ago, found.

“It’s not just a good group of friends or a place for me to sing, but I’m contributing to my community by being a part of this,” Curren said. 

Rather than inviting people to come to them, as Rambo thinks is a problem with a lot of church models, the choir has adopted a “we’ll come to you” mentality. 

This summer he said they are planning a block party tour by partnering with organizations in different neighborhoods to hold a potluck-style meal while the choir performs. 

“In general I feel like the trend is to get more isolated, more separate, and we want to reinforce community in the Chippewa Valley,” he said. 

He thinks the style of music they perform also allows for a wide range of connections, especially among those who might not consider joining a choir.

“We’ve just noticed hip-hop crosses all the boundaries. Most of the youth resonate with that style,” Rambo said. “I’ve noticed some of the Hmong kids or the Hispanic kids (at the Lighthouse), if there seems to be outside the grand culture of Eau Claire people that aren’t European American, all identify with this. It’s been a unifying language and that’s part of the reason I combine it with gospel.” 

Through the choir, Rambo also is tugging at conversations he doesn’t often see happening in Eau Claire: those on race and cultural differences. 

Removing assumptions

With 92.3 percent of Eau Claire’s population being white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent data, it can be easy not to talk about those things. But Rambo said as the community continues to grow, those are conversations its members need to have. 

“I believe Eau Claire has been slow to enter the conversation — it doesn’t perceive (race) is a problem or an issue,” Rambo said. “We (the choir) want to be a part of not only the conversation, but we want to be part of the solution.”

Using that “we’ll come to you” mentality, he thinks the choir can serve as one of hopefully more entry points. 

“As we see an insurgence of African Americans and other subcultures coming to this city, we can be a wonderful welcoming mat,” Rambo said. “We can say ‘I know this isn’t necessarily home yet, but we’re going to take a step toward you’ instead of saying ‘act like us, try to fit in and don’t rock the boat.’” 

Tru Serva, whose real name is Marcus Montana, remembers the first time he heard about the choir while working with 513Free, an Eau Claire music and outreach program. He remembers thinking a gospel hip-hop choir in Eau Claire sounded “odd.” 

“Looking at Eau Claire you would think it’s all white people, for lack of a better term, and it’s weird to think gospel and hip-hop comes out of that,” Montana said. “Not that either discriminates, but it’s higher on the radar of minorities. If you want to make assumptions, you’d think country or folk music in Eau Claire.” 

Spending several years in the area, he now knows that is not the case. And after performing several times with the choir at the last two Eau Claire Jazz festivals and other community events, he said the choir and city have been welcoming to the music. 

That is why he thinks the choir is a great asset to the community. For those who may not only be unfamiliar with the style of music but also another culture, creating a safe space to start those conversations is important. 

“Music is the one thing that brings people together despite differences,” Montana said. “The choir allows people to get past a lot of biases or assumptions we have in our country right now, whether that’s racism or having prejudices against different age groups or economic backgrounds.”

Montana looks forward to performing with the choir during its June 28 performance because he “always gets a lot of love” from the choir and the audience it draws.

As the choir gains more attention, Rambo hopes to use the Sounds Like Summer performance to draw a wider crowd. He believes the choir still has a lot of room to grow and hopes to get its name out in the community.

“I hope there are even more churches involved (in the future),” Rambo said. “We certainly hope to grow in size and impact when we go places, and in skill.” 

Godchaux said the impact piece is the most important thing for her. That’s what she feels when she’s immersed in a choir rehearsal, and what she hopes others can see too. 

“My hope is that we would not only grow in numbers, but that people would be able to see the choir as being instrumental in bringing people together,” Godchaux said. “If I had a dream for the choir it would be that we would continue to be a light in the community — (to see) it is possible to have relationships with one another in a very positive way.”

Contact reporter: 715-833-9214,, @KatherineMacek on Twitter







The CollECtive Choir rehearsing at The Lighthouse in Eau Claire Wi.

Community Chorus

A joyous song erupts over the still evening asphalt. Each and every harmonious note that floats up into the blackened sky seems to rise from somewhere deep within the gutters of the city, causing curious passersby to halt suddenly in their paths. A closer listen reveals the sound of many distinct voices – a beautiful collection of altos and sopranos and tenors singing in passionate unison to a keyboard’s simple chords.

In a single leap of faith, one man has taken the role of building a choral group from the ground up and of leading it into the community, one spirit-filled note at a time. Under the direction of Eau Claire native Michael Rambo, the CollECtive Choir has arrived on the scene and is gaining momentum as the city’s newest singing ensemble. In April, the gospel-style choir officially set up shop in the Lighthouse Youth Center, 310 E. Madison St. And just as the name of the headquarters implies, the group has become a beacon of light for people of all walks of life.

“In a choir, it’s not about a star. It’s about singing together. When we sing together in community, it changes the atmosphere.” – Michael Rambo, CollECtive Choir director

The idea behind the CollECtive Choir blossomed from a seed planted during Rambo’s time as worship director for Eau Claire’s Tabernacle of Praise Church. Determined to create a downtown choir for area youth, one friend and fellow churchgoer enlisted Rambo’s help to get the project’s gears churning. The director was hesitant at first, but at his friend’s continued persistence, Rambo finally decided it was time to move ahead with the plans that had long been simmering on the backburner.

And while the choir veered from the original plan of being youth-only, it instead evolved into a group that welcomes anyone and everyone in the aim of fostering community.

In Rambo’s estimation, togetherness and the pursuit of unity are what make up the choir’s heart and soul.

“Everybody’s connected as a family,” Rambo said. “I just hope to show the world we are united – we are one.”

After graduation from UW-Eau Claire in 2004 with a degree in vocal performance, Rambo served in various churches within the community as worship director. It was through those positions that the musician was able to hone his skills of arranging, leading, and singing, soon acquiring all the necessary tools to direct a diverse group of voices.

Deciding to join the choir was no question for Connie Hagen, who has known Rambo his entire life and attends Peace Lutheran in Eau Claire where Rambo works. “When he announced he was starting a choir, I was all in,” Hagen said. “It’s such a blessing to work with Michael. He’s an amazing teacher and has an amazing knowledge of music.”

The CollECtive Choir has even adopted its own unique sound that blends gospel, soul, jazz, and hip-hop – a style Rambo hopes will be able to transcend the stigmas surrounding modern church songs.

“The contemporary church is still considered subpar regarding music,” Rambo said. “Gospel music is one of the ways it actually excels, so we’ve been developing our own brand of Northern gospel.”

So where is this grassroots choral group headed now? While optimistic, Rambo believes it will require plenty of time for the Eau Claire community to really take notice of the choir and its mission.

“It’ll take a while,” Rambo said. “We have a saying in the church: ‘If you’re going to move the organ, you’re going to have to move it an inch at a time.’ ”

But while numbers and recognition are always a plus, Hagen believes true fulfillment comes simply from singing songs of praise with the other members.

“The choir brings a smile to my face and puts joy in my heart,” Hagen said. Regardless of what the future holds for Rambo and his troupe of singers, the director’s ultimate hope is for his choir to be an inspiration within the community.

“I want it to be a joyful, shining light in this city,” Rambo said.

And just maybe – as some unsuspecting pedestrian meanders downtown some evening – a single, spirited sound coiling into the starry night will be exactly that.