The Branchettes

With a style and repertoire rooted in the African American musical traditions of congregational hymn singing, Johnston County's Branchettes have been performing throughout the Piedmont for over three decades. Group founders Lena Mae Perry and Ethel Elliott were both born and raised near the town of Benson, North Carolina, and met for the first time at the Long Branch Disciple Church, where their families were members of the congregation. The founding of the group was due almost entirely to happenstance: the Long Branch Senior Choir, in which Perry and Elliot both sang, was scheduled to sing at a church program in nearby Smithfield, but only three members, including Elliott and Perry, showed up. Though nervous, they sang anyway, and quickly realized the power of their combined voices. "The people were just shouting and crying," Elliott recalled in an interview, "even though there were just three of us." Inspired, the trio decided to call themselves the Branchettes, or "small branches of the Long Branch," in honor of their home church.

Since that initial performance, the Branchettes have continued to serve their Long Branch Disciple Church in addition to participating in programs throughout the state. They were featured performers at the Ulster American Folk Park in Ireland. In 1995, the group received the North Carolina Heritage Award in recognition of their important contributions to the musical culture of the state, and in 2001 they performed at the Carolina Roots: Women's Voices of North Carolina event in Greensboro.

Ethel Elliott passed away in 2004, but Perry and pianist Wilbur Tharpe continue to perform as the Branchettes. The group's releases include Singing in the Spirit, and they are featured on the Music Maker Foundation release Sisters of the South alongside artists like Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, Precious Bryant, and Etta Baker.

Booking Agency: 
Music Maker Foundation
Booking Contact: 
Aaron Greenhood
Booking Address: 
P. O. Box 1358
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Booking Phone: 
(919) 643-2456
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