Musical memories: Ceren Necipoğlu International Harp Festival
Ceren Necipoğlu’s life ended tragically, but her musical legacy lives on in a new festival in Istanbul. Musicians from around the world will descend on the city to honor one of Turkey’s great harpists.

In frescos, angels are often depicted as beautiful young women playing the harp above the clouds. Ceren Necipoğlu, a critically acclaimed Turkish harpist, tragically lost her life in a 2009 plane crash while returning from Brazil, becoming an angel herself. Ten years later, her family, students, and colleagues are organizing the Ceren Necipoğlu International Istanbul Harp Festival from January 15-19 in her memory.

Necipoğlu’s story with the harp began young, finding inspiration in a picture of a girl playing the harp adorning the cover of a notebook. “Harp was a huge passion for Ceren,” her sister İmre Tüylü told The Guide Istanbul. This budding passion, nurtured under the tutelage of world renowned American harpist Susann McDonald, led to critical acclaim and provided Necipoğlu the opportunity to continue her career in the US.

However, her love for Turkey drove Necipoğlu to a different path, one of service to future Turkish harpists. Educating aspiring harpists to spread the love of music to younger generations, she believed her students would be a lasting work of art, forever contributing to the rich musical tapestry of the country. Thus, the Harp Department at Anadolu University was established in 2002 under Necipoğlu’s leadership, educating students until her death.

Ceren Necipoğlu

Not confined solely to education, Necipoğlu continued to push the limits of the harp in her personal career, fusing melodies from Anatolia. “As a musician, she was eternally curious and fearlessly searching for what she found to be her inspiration: contemporary music which has ancient ethnomusicologic roots” Florence Sitruk, the festival Art Director, told The Guide Istanbul.

In 2009, after playing at the 4th Rio Harp Festival in Brazil, Necipoğlu decided to catch a later flight in order to see the concert of a harpist she admired. Tragically, Necipoğlu was one of the passengers on Air France Flight 447 from Rio to Paris that disappeared over the Atlantic, depriving Turkey one of its most accomplished harpists.

Following her death, a former colleague came across 13 compositions by Turkish and international artists dedicated to Necipoğlu, composed both before and after her death. This became the spark that led to what will be the first international harp festival held in Istanbul.

Ceren Necipoğlu with her students

The festival will include harp competitions in two categories; namely Young Hope (ages 12-16) and Young Artist (ages 17-21), one chamber music competition, as well as concerts and master classes taught by world renowned harpists like Marielle Nordmann and Eleanor Turner. Not limited solely to harp, the festival program will also feature Italian pianist Roberto Plano and his wife Paola Del Negro playing a four-handed piano recital.

Featuring participants from a diverse bouquet of countries from around the globe, the chamber music competition will be one of only two in the world, “like the United Nations, bringing the world together. Where could this be more beautifully done than in Istanbul, golden city between Orient and Occident,” Sitruk emphasizes.

Aiming to be a sustainable event and make Istanbul one of the important centers in the world of harp art, it will be held every year in January, Necipoğlu’s birthday month. Proceeds will support education for financially disadvantaged music students, ensuring that Necipoğlu’s goals of passing on musical knowledge to future generations continues to live on. “We have lost one of us, and we will always keep her among us,” Sitruk notes.

Eleanor Turner

The Consulate General of Germany, German High School of Istanbul, Pera Museum, and Cemal Reşit Rey are the festival venues. Tickets can be obtained free of charge via More information on @cnharpfestival on Instagram.

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