Stay Prayed Up

72 mins.
Directed by D.L. Anderson & Matt Durning

The only thing mightier than Lena Mae Perry’s electrifying voice is her faith. She’s spent close to 50 years sharing and sharpening both as the steadfast bandleader of The Branchettes, a legendary North Carolina gospel group that has packed churches throughout the South and lifted weary hearts as far away as Ireland.

STAY PRAYED UP is a spirited celebration, inviting audiences into “Mother” Perry’s close-knit community as the 83-year-old strives to extend The Branchettes’ sacred song ministry ever forward.

The film documents The Branchettes as they record their first fully live album, a hallmark in the canon of Black gospel groups. Health concerns for beloved long-time pianist and friend Wilbur Tharpe underscore the importance of “capturing the spirit” for producer Phil Cook, a white Wisconsin-born gospel enthusiast and musical polyglot half of Perry’s age.

Through shared prayer, laughter, hardship and praise, this “church gospel noisy crew” demonstrates that music, like faith, ain’t nothing without heart behind it.