Meredith Braun, who has just started teaching on the musical theatre course at the University of Chichester, has released a new album, her first for five years.
It’s an album with a particular significance.
“Since the last album, I have been bringing up three children who are now 20 and 20 and 13. 2012, when I did the last album, they were just going into GCSEs, but I suppose now I am starting to see the light again!
“I was just starting to think about a new album and I really got into a fascinating storyline in The Archers at the start of last year.
“They had a story about a character who was embroiled in a very controlling relationship.
“It made a lot of newspapers at the time. It was so astonishing that someone who was comfortably well off ended up in a relationship that was so damaging.
“In the end, she stabbed him. At the same time, there was a law coming in that was five years for controlling relationships.
“I was really interested in the two things. I started doing a lot of research around it and talking to organisations like Women’s Aid and a fantastic thing called The Freedom Programme.
“It was remarkable. The whole thing cuts across classes, but you speak to the middle classes, and it is not something they feel able to talk about.
“There is this sense of shame. And there is the diminishing self-esteem and then this sad story, and I kept meeting people who would share their stories with me. Being a singer and a musician, I started to wonder if I could tell the story, not just in an intellectual way, but also in an emotional way, with emotional understanding.”
The consequent album is When Love Is Gone which takes the title from the song Meredith performed in the film The Muppet Christmas Carol which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Alongside it are songs from musical theatre and singer/songwriter ballads by Randy Newman, Carly Simon and Barry Manilow.
“It is 14 songs that tell the story of an Every Woman, about the things that happen, the gaslighting, the damaging comments.
“I have also worked on a website where I have used verbatim accounts of about 12 different women who have been through it.
“On the album there are also songs by Noel Coward and Lloyd Webber and Sondheim, and there are also two songs that I wrote myself for where I couldn’t find songs to fit that part of the story.”
The album release comes just as Meredith has started working at the University of Chichester where she is teaching acting through song.
“They want to bring a focus in the third year on acting through song for when the students have learnt to sing and need to bring it all together, for when they need to consider how to communicate the story through the songs they are singing.
“I think it will grow in January and in the next semester. There is definitely an interest. For me, the story has to be what drives the singing. In musical theatre, you shouldn’t be thinking about the acting and the singing and the dancing separately.
“You should be bringing it all together in the way that you communicate what the song is all about. The University of Chichester is very forward thinking in the way it is doing this.
“It really does want to develop that side of things, and I just love having a group of young people that I can teach.”