Corinne Morris’ life and cello art: an interview

Not long ago did I meet Corinne, barely a few months, so to speak; but shortness of time will never relate to pettiness of worth, therefore it was with personal and sincere diligence that I’ve indulged Corinne’s re-debuting performance at The Forge with Nico de Villiers. Since then, I know she has been on a series of concerts in London and around; future looks better for early prodigy, battered halfway through her career by an injury – Corinne has fully recovered it seems, alive and kicking to deliver the best.

Corinne Morris. Credits to B. Ealovega

Yes, many questions, long interview below!

Francois/ Dear Corinne, how does it feel to be back on the fair track, performing in front of people, touring again?

Corinne/ The feeling of being back ‘on stage’ to share my love of music, is the one thing I am most grateful about in my life at the moment! It was a feeling I thought I had lost forever. I yearned for it much and it is for ‘this’ reason that I pursued my therapy treatment through thick and thin.

F/ Isn’t it a bit tough having to do, so to say, things from the beginning once more?

C/ This is the reality of life! We are all so to speak on our ‘life path’ and there are those in front of us and those behind. If you fail to ‘keep moving’, others will step in and fill your space. Such is life! But it is never too late to start again, and besides ‘a few extra’ years gives you some wisdom and experience to make the most out of each situation.

F/ What happened, that has been forcing you to put the cellist’s career between brackets?

C/ I suffered something very common among musicians and in other professions: RSI. Repetitive Strain Injury. Acceptance of professional related health traumas in the music industry is still very mixed and it can be very difficult to navigate one’s career during these uncertain times. The tendency is to ignore any symptoms for fear of loosing present but also future work, appearing unreliable, and dealing with embarrassing questions for which one doesn’t really have a concrete answer!
Because of this, the symptoms worsen until it becomes impossible to continue. This is what happened to me and when the medical diagnosis recommended surgery and a total break from performing, doors to my career slammed hard on me.

F/ Is it emotionally tough? Does one learn precious teachings in the process, and past the recovery? Can it help grow stronger, or is it rather a total hindrance in all aspects?

C/ Initially I felt very weak and drained emotionally so much that I went into temporary depression during the initial chaos.. As I gradually started accepting my situation, I started having visions that this might not have to be like this forever. But finding the ‘right’ path to recovery took a few attempts and a lot of frustration along with it. This ‘search’ tested my determination and certainly challenged me; I had to ask myself how much I ‘really’ wanted to get back to performing. Some profound life questions needed clarifying and I am now grateful for the life lessons learned.

F/ From that difficult experience you’ve had to go through, would you have one wise piece of advice to share with young musicians, which you think is vital, yet maybe oft overlooked?

C/ A universal wisdom I now live by is, everything that happens in one’s life has a reason. Sometimes situations are there to please us, make us happy or on the contrary, create pain or challenge us so that something new may emerge. Whatever comes your way is there to help you grow. Accept this, honour the challenge and always ask yourself, what do I need to learn from this experience? All right, enough philosophising!

To young musicians, I urge them to ‘be in touch’ with any physical alarms going off in their body. Address these with the help of their teachers, support groups etc. It is SO MUCH easier to sort out aches and pains before they become full-blown injuries.

F/ Please do speak with us about your own taste. Up to this day, which are your very favourite genres and pieces?

C/ My favourite pieces tend to be the ones I am playing at that time! But I do have a special affinity with Mozart, Schumann and Rachmaninov. There is a lot of 20th century music I enjoy. Over the years, I have also developed a love for Opera and Richard Strauss is among my favourites/ Other genres I love listening to are Jazz, in particular Oscar Peterson.

F/ You have released a full album in October 2013, harvesting positive reviews and exposure. Do you have any tips on the science of selecting pieces?

C/ I think you need to ask yourself what/who the album is for/aimed at, what you are good at and what budget you’re having at hands. In selecting the repertoire for Macedonian Sessions, those were certainly questions I was asking myself.

F/ Macedonian Sessions’ track 7 (Un’ ultima volta) is a piece of your own. How would you define this song?

C/ This is a song I wrote when I no longer could play the cello. It is for tenor voice and orchestra but I wanted to include it on my re-launch album as this recording is a ‘link’ to those silent years.

F/ Is there an art of recording?

C/ Most definitely! I discussed this extensively with the brilliant sound engineer (Matt Howe) who recorded the album with me in Macedonia. We both had a ‘sound’ in mind, which we continuously referenced along the stages of the recording/post-production.

F/ Clearly, our days are about violinists, singers, pianists, etc. Shall we start preaching for a holy cello messiah to take it back under the limelight?

C/Violin, piano and singing have always been popular but the cello has gained a lot over the last 20 years. I always find that it is an extremely popular instrument with music lovers; likening its ‘voice’ to the human voice!

F/ Is it my guess, or there seems to remain lots of unexplored territories in the universe of cello composition?

C/ I believe a lot has already been explored in terms of writing. It is very versatile in sound and tessiture so there is definitely more scope for exploration.

Corinne Morris. Credits to B. Ealovega

F/ I’m sure there is much curiosity about your one, true, everyday personality. Who are you in life? Is the you different being between the stage and other moments?

C/I think that the ‘public’ me is part of who I am and not some sort of character I play, so in a sense the performer in me is me! I have other personality traits, which may or may not be so apparent on stage, but essentially I draw upon my identity in being authentic on stage.


F/ Where is the border between the good and the bad classical musician?

C/ That is a tricky question! Good or bad is very subjective! Especially if you are referring to the interpretation of a piece. Agreeing on the technical command of an instrument/voice is much easier of course!

F/ Are you interested in, do you listen to, and would collaborate to any pop, electro, rap or contemporary music project?

C/ I never say no without more information!

F/ Is the music of our days going in the right direction?

C/ Some of it yes! A lot of it NO! We are living times of great change and turbulences, whether directly in the arts or in our own civilisation. Art is always a reflection of the times.

F/ Are we keeping enough of a good grip on our roots? Should we actually care?

C/We do not exist without our past and yet it must not hold us back! At the moment the pendulum tends towards a society that is so busy living, we forget who we are and why we are here. I find this  to be quite a shame!

F/ You’ve been playing live on BBC3 recently. How did it feel?

C/ It felt great to be back at Broadcasting House. The first time I recorded there, I was 11.

F/ What are your plans for the second half of 2014, and for the year after?

C/ I have several more concerts until the end of the year, including a curated series around Belle Époque at the 1901 Arts Club in London in November, and a tour in China in October.

F/ Are you fond of literature, painting, or even sports?

C/ I love most art forms including literature, painting and sculpture. I don’t have enough time, though, to really indulge in any of them in the way I would like to.

Sport is something I enjoy doing and watching. Skiing in particular. And being in nature is very important to me and invigorating.

Thanks, Corinne! We wish you all the best for the future and hope to hear again about you soon! 

Author: Francois Mauld d'Aymee

Francois trains to become a classical singer at the same time he runs a tutoring company in Central London. He loves opera as much as any other kind of classical music, never missing an occasion to attend the great performances.