‘Stay Prayed Up’ Introduces Audiences To Brilliant Gospel Singer Mother Perry: “She Represents Boundless, Infinite Love”

For anyone watching the documentary amazing GraceIt’s hard to imagine a movie about the making of Aretha Franklin’s gospel album. but new movie be in prayer The performance includes equally upbeat moments from a gospel singer, in this case a widely known but not deeply gifted woman called Mother Perry.

For nearly 50 years, Mother Perry – Lena May Perry – has been singing praises as part of The Branchets, an evangelistic group based in rural North Carolina. She is the last surviving member of the original trio and directors. DL Anderson And matt darning Built the film around the recording of their first live Gospel album.

Live recordings were taken in April 2019, with Perry on lead vocals, “with gleaming keys from Wilbur Tharpe, soaring harmony and a thunderous duff from Angela Kent, all backed by guitar heels,” as the filmmakers note.


“They did two sets,” Durning noted during an appearance for the film in Santa Monica over the weekend. “It wasn’t exactly the same show, but they ran it twice. So we were able to make some decisions and choose camera positions and audience reaction shots and there were two chances at that.”

Perry recorded a range of religious music in his rich contralto and The Branchets, including the up tempo “Come by Here” and the emotionally gripping “I Don’t Feel Now Tire”. like with amazing Grace It is not necessary to be religious or Christian to enjoy film, music and feel its uplifting effect.

“My co-directors, DL. Anderson, and I, neither of us are very [religious] people,” during the comments. “We never really felt a deep connection to organized religion. We don’t come from the church itself… The power that kept us pulling in the story was in Mother Perry, for the first time, we saw the good in religion, as in spirituality What is it that can really be unity and integration. Restorative or productive force in our society.”

For filmmakers, making be in prayer Means “going to church” in a literal and figurative sense.

“It started from day one. We finished filming and Mother Perry asked to pray, “Derning recalls. “I don’t like group prayer very often. Holding hands and praying felt a bit awkward at first. But just put this thought into your day, for stopping each day, and expressing gratitude for the things you have, the people you share your day with, the food you get to eat…we. It was our goal to make the audience experience the same.”

Mother Perry walks a street in rural North Carolina
Mother Perry walks a street in rural North Carolina
Greenwich Entertainment

The film, distributed by Greenwich Entertainment, is rolling out this week in New York, Santa Monica, Cincinnati, Ohio, Chicago and multiple locations in North Carolina, including Normal, Ill., Louisville, Kentucky, and Chapel Hill. It becomes available on demand on iTunes and Amazon on July 5. Recordings are available through Spiritual Helpline, a record label and production company founded by Phil Cook whose mission is to showcase gospel-based original music that may otherwise go unrecognized.

“Through music, conversation, and films,” the company’s website notes, “the spiritual helpline celebrates the sacred sounds of tradition-holders in the South and beyond.”

Cook is a white musician originally from Wisconsin. He has made a point of not producing works by African American artists embodied in the black experience.

Phil Cook and Mother Perry
Phil Cook and Mother Perry
Courtesy Spiritual Helpline

“Phil was already committed with making the album … that he would reverse the power structure traditionally found in the recording industry where the engineer, the recording artist are making little money and the publisher is making all the income,” said Durning. They say . “They flipped it, so Mother Perry has 80 percent of all the proceeds from the album. And Phil only has a 20% stake as a producer. So he said, ‘If I’m going to make a movie with you guys. And we’re going to make a film with him, so it should be the same with filmmaking relationships.”

Mother Perry’s daughter Lena C. Williams is the producer of the film. Durning states that “the mother and daughter had a 50 percent stake in the film in terms of creative control, editorial control, and ownership of the film for any potential income that would be seen on the street.”

The directors retained folklorist Michel Lanier to work with him in the film. Lanier is associated with Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies and oversees several museums, battlefields, and other sites for the North Carolina Division of State Historic Sites and Properties.

“It was clear to us from the beginning,” says Durning, “that if we were going to go in and tell a story about an African-American community and about an African American woman, two little white filmmakers As many things were going to happen we needed to make sure we navigated properly and respected and had the right voices and support team around us to hold us accountable for implicit biases that We may have and not even thinking about it is the way we approach the story.

Lena C. Williams and her mother, Lena May Perry
Producer Lena C. Williams with her mother Lena May Perry
spiritual helpline

“By bringing Mother Perry and her daughter to the table as creative partners and then Michelle Lanier as our folklorist and effects producer, I think it was a small step we could have taken to ensure that We were taking it the right way and trying to turn some of the traditional power dynamics and filmmaking on their head a little bit.”

Mother Perry turns 83 on January 1scheduled tribe of this year. be in prayer A concert is more than a movie; It follows Perry in her daily life, checking in with friends, and communicating regularly with her four surviving children. Faith helped her see through the loss of a son, who died while serving in the US Army in Germany. As the center of the film, she brings joy and care to others.

“That’s what Mother Perry represents, this endless, boundless, infinite love for all,” says Durning. “And to go through the things she’s faced in her life, the racism she faced as a child, the loss she had with the passing of her son and still so much hope and so much understanding and grace.” And everyone for projecting love, it blew us away.”