Lead character and filmmakers of VAFF Stay Prayed Up drop by Sneak Previews, October 24

Ahead of the Virginia Film Festival (October 27-31), the filmmakers and lead character (Mother Perry) of the documentary Stay Prayed Up joined us on WTJU’s Sneak Previews. Listen to the conversation and a song from the film here:


STAY PRAYED UP chronicles the journey of Lena Mae Perry, matron of the legendary gospel trio The Branchettes, as she and her bandmates record their first live concert album in a half-century of performing. The group’s story begins at the little plank church in The Branchettes’ hometown of Newton Grove, North Carolina and spans stages and worship assemblies as far away as Cork, Ireland. Using archival VHS and intimate contemporary footage, the film weaves together the history of the band’s unparalleled career with their current project, offering a snapshot of Perry’s powerful and abiding ministry.

Seeds for the project were planted in 2015 after Wisconsin-born, NC-based singer/songwriter Phil Cook approached “Mother” Perry about recording a live album. Cook later invited local filmmakers D.L. Anderson, of Vittles Films, and Matt Durning, of Interlocking Pictures, to document the process of recording the concert album. The resulting album and film are a testament to The Branchettes’ lasting legacy and a fitting tribute to those members who have already passed on.

STAY PRAYED UP exists alongside classic concert films like SAY AMEN SOMEBODY, AMAZING GRACE, and the more recent SUMMER OF SOUL. In a global moment rife with social and political dissonance, STAY PRAYED UP dares to transport audiences to a place where spirit and music converge in universal vibration.

Mother Perry has always been a uniting force. “Her whole life she’s strengthened the ties between human beings,” says project architect Cook. “They feel closer, they see each other because of the vast amount of love that is in her heart.” For Cook, “STAY PRAYED UP and the live album is one small way I can help carry that forward.”

The live album, entitled “Stayed Prayed Up,” will be the inaugural release on Cook’s new record label Spiritual Helpline, which he calls “a platform for presenting the past, present, and future of gospel music in the South.” Built from an obsessive love for gospel music and enthusiasm for spreading its word the way the artists intended, Cook hopes to “help shine a light on the underrepresented Black musicians who are the heartbeat of our musical traditions.”


“A Gospel Noisy Crew” – Clip from Vittles Films on Vimeo.


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