Stephen Morris, a professional musician, was so exhausted after a long day in the recording studio that when he got off a train in southeastern London on Oct. 22, he did not realize he had left his 310-year-old violin behind.
“Devastated” once he realized his mistake the following morning, Morris started a hunt for his missing instrument — one of the few made by master craftsman David Tecchler in 1709. It is said to be worth more than $320,000.
He wrote to Southeastern Railway, which operated the train he had taken that night, and made public appeals on social media. British Transport Police later released an image taken from CCTV of a man who might have taken the violin, asking him to get in touch, British news outlets reported.
As time passed, the possibility of its return seemed increasingly bleak. But Saturday, Morris announced a surprise breakthrough: His antique instrument was back.
“My violin is home safe and sound,” Morris wrote on Twitter before posting a photograph showing him kissing its side.
His joy was understandable. Morris told the BBC last week that he had been playing the same violin for 15 years. He is a soloist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, has worked with such musicians as Stevie Wonder and U2, and has performed as a leader of the ensemble of popular composer Max Richter.
Morris said that the violin was in a “white glossy case” when he boarded the train from London Victoria to Orpington. Also inside were two “quite historic” bows, one of which had belonged to U.S. violinist Michael Rabin.
Morris said he received a private message on Twitter on Thursday from someone who said he recognized the person in the CCTV picture.
“He was very apologetic; he said he wanted to hand it to me in person,” a clearly relieved Morris said.
Both the violin and the bows were “in tune” when they were returned to him Friday night at a supermarket parking lot in southeastern London.
“Struggling for words here,” a grinning Morris told the BBC on Sunday. “I’m still getting over the shock of it coming back.” Before asking him to play the violin, a BBC interviewer asked him if next time he may chain the instrument to his wrist. Morris laughed — then played “Amazing Grace.”
Morris is not the first professional musician to leave a valuable instrument behind — and get it back.
One was Yo-Yo Ma, who left his 18th-century cello in a taxi trunk after a Carnegie Hall concert in 1999.
New York Times