He was the legendary owner of Palm Guitars, the world-famous shop that opened in 1995 on s’Gravelandseveer smack in the middle of Amsterdam. Harp guitarist Stephen Bennett well remembers walking into the incredible “stuffed to the gills” wonderland long ago, wherein Soren promptly set him up with a gig that evening (in the red-light district). Though Soren began his business in 1976, it was this shop that all remember. (Soren had to move to a new location after a fire a few years ago, and someone recently acquired his instruments and stock.)
Above, Soren surrounded by harp guitars in 2017 at his last location, photo by Dicky Rigby.
Sadly, I never had a chance to visit the shop full of thousands of instruments (both those for sale and the many rarities Soren kept for himself). And I was further saddened when I heard of Soren’s unexpected passing on February 28th, just a few days shy of his 69th birthday.
I wanted to do my own special tribute here – in my blog’s new In Memoriam section – because I thought my readers would appreciate knowing more about him, while Soren’s many friends would enjoy hearing my harp guitar connection with him. If you have your own harp guitar stories, please share in the comments!
Soren was another special “friend I never met.” Indeed, he was a good friend and resource not only to me, but also to Harpguitars.net, and thus, all of you. We discovered each other even before Harpguitars.net, Soren having donated images to my Knutsen Archives in 2003.
Soren’s personal Knutsen collection (I was thrilled to hear him in an interview pronounce the “K” as we advise in the Archives).
It turned out that Soren was a dedicated fan of harp guitars, in addition to his deep interest in all things musical. Whenever he stumbled across something new, he would contribute to Harpguitars.net with images of instrument discoveries and rare ephemera.
For example, Soren’s original photo of Sol Hoopi, from an obscure 1934 film was a brand-new find for all fans of Hawaiian music…and also harp guitars. That’s a Knutsen with all 11 string courses doubled! (I discuss the film – with YouTube clip link – and the instrument here.)
Meanwhile, I in turn frequented his Palm Guitars web site, finding many new specimen and maker entries for Harpguitars.net as I “window shopped.”
My own lovely 1932 Luigi Galimberti above came from Soren (my sole purchase from him) in 2016. He found a lot of rare instruments over the years!
And in case anyone’s forgotten, Soren blew us away in 2013 with “the Garp.”
Having a Gibson Style U that was missing its sub-bass section, he took the head of an unused Ukrainian bandura and had his luthier create a new form of harp guitar…with multiple banks of tuned harp strings! Read all about it here.
Though I never categorized Soren (with his Gibson, above) as a “harp guitarist,” he knew exactly what they were all about, their history, and how they were tuned and played. He even has a film soundtrack credit with his vintage Dyer, where in 2005 he emulated the sound of an Austrian Schrammelgitarre.
It’s on the DVD of the restored Paramount film Beyond the Rocks with Rudolph Valentino. Soren told me that he definitely played some sub-basses, though I couldn’t pick them out on the soundtrack (perhaps you can?).
That was a fascinating project that would bring us together through the strangest set of circumstances, as detailed in my article The Valentino Dyer – where I believe I identified the strange dark-top Style 8 Dyer harp guitar seen in the 1922 film – as one surviving today!
Though the Paramount film was shot in California, the only surviving copy was found in the Netherlands, where it was subsequently restored. Soren’s friend was asked to do a new soundtrack and engaged Soren to play on it – using – what else? And rather than use one of his Viennese harp guitars, Soren used his own Dyer…just like the prop guy did for the old silent movie!
I think his trademark eyebrow raise answers us succinctly… Why not?
Thanks for everything, my friend. – Sir G