Martin Morris is an established maker, restorer and repairer based in the Bodmin Moor/Tamar Valley area of Cornwall since 1992. He has been creating instruments for professional musicians since his time in Cumbria (1977 – 1985) where he forged a connection with the Northern Sinfonia and musicians from Manchester and Scotland, before moving on to London and Oxfordshire. He has received awards from the Crafts Council, and from Northern Arts on the recommendation of Wilfred Saunders, a major figure in British violin making. The maple for his instruments is mainly from one fine-toned and well-figured Cumbrian fellside sycamore tree, whilst the spruce is mountain-grown. His finishes are based on the latest historical and scientific research, using conifer resins with walnut or linseed oils and natural pigments and dyes, as used by the classical Italian makers.
As a player himself, Martin emphasises playability, optimum tonal adjustment, and careful fitting up of his instruments. His violas are adaptations of classical patterns to suit today’s players, varying in size from 420mm to a 402mm inspired by GB Guadagnini, which has a very comfortable string length of 355mm well suited to violinists doubling on viola. Violins and cellos are more closely based on classical Italian instruments, the cellos having string lengths between 686 – 700 mm. Some instruments have been commissioned by principals and leaders of the Philadelphia, Detroit, and BBC Northern Symphony orchestras, others are with players from orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic and English Sinfonia.
Copies are also available of specific instruments in original Baroque or Classical period set-ups from the Cremonese, Venetian and Tyrolean schools. Martin has made for the Baroque collection of the RNCM and, notably, possibly the first recreation in modern times of an Italian 3 string double bass - Gary Karr’s ‘Koussevitsky’ Amati - for a player from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. One of his Baroque violins is owned by Simon Jones, Head of Strings and Historical Performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and player in leading UK ensembles, who said: “…it has a special sound - very much so…a warm and generous sound which blooms out of the instrument… just the sort of sound that I wanted to make on a Baroque violin. I very much believe it was this sound, hopefully in combination with my way of playing it, that helped my career to progress. I have lent it to various people and they all enjoy playing it but I feel a link still with it. It is a perfect example of the mysteries of violin making.”