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Mount Pearl native gains Juno nod

Composer Bekah Simms is a native of Mount Pearl currently working and studying in Toronto.
Composer Bekah Simms is a native of Mount Pearl currently working and studying in Toronto. - Contributed

MUN grad Bekah Simms nominated for award for classical composition

Bekah Simms watched the live Juno Award nomination announcements this week on a whim and was shocked to hear her name among the nominees.

The 28-year-old Mount Pearl native’s classical composition “Granitic” is one of the five pieces nominated for classical composition of the year.

The piece was featured on her first-ever album.

“It’s an accomplishment that happened very fast,” Simms said in a phone interview from Toronto about suddenly achieving a nomination that was a long-term goal.

Simms is working on her doctorate of musical arts at the University of Toronto and is a graduate of Memorial University’s school of music.

She started playing the flute when she was about 11 and began composing while at MUN.

The nominated piece was written for 10 musicians and has been performed live twice in Toronto by the musicians who recorded it, some of whom have connections to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Simms said she composed the piece as a result of winning the 2017 Toronto emerging composer award, which gave her $6,000 to write whatever she wanted.

She drew some inspiration from the late Italian composer Fausto Romitelli, who composed for 10 instruments.

Simms’ piece is written for the flute, clarinet, trumpet, violin, viola, cello, electric guitar, electric bass, percussion and synthesizer.

“What I wanted to do with the piece is create a dialogue between experimental classical sound and a progressive rock sound,” Simms said.

The piece was submitted by the record label associated with the Canadian Music Centre — Simms is recognized professionally as an associated composer.

“I thought it was such a longshot,” she said of the nomination. “I didn’t even think it was on the radar.

“It’s very exciting. March feels very soon. I wasn’t really expecting to go.”

Now Simms is scrambling to get a hotel room in London, Ont. Her category is among those that will be presented at a ceremony outside the televised Junos.
Simms said she’s looking forward to meeting everyone, especially fellow nominees in her category.

“What I wanted to do with the piece is create a dialogue between experimental classical sound and a progressive rock sound." — Bekah Simms

“Everybody is there for a good, happy reason,” she said. “Just to be nominated is such a shock, I’m happy just to go along for the ride.”

Her husband, Evan Bowen, a native of Conception Bay South and another MUN music grad, plays percussion on the piece. Labrador City native Andrew Noseworthy, another MUN music alum, plays guitar.

“The track wouldn’t get nominated if the performance wasn’t good,” Simms said of all the musicians who played on the piece.

Simms said her family back home were elated, particularly her grandmother, who at first chided her for fibbing.

And once the word got out to friends and family all over, the response was instant.

“My phone like blew up,” Simms said. “I never experienced so many messages at the same time.”

The celebration was an at-home dinner of pasta, champagne and a charcuterie board for Simms in Toronto.

Simms may get a lot more inquiries with the nomination, but she’s already booked up with commissions into 2020.

She expects to keep filling out her calendar.

“I don’t want to say no to people. It’s such an honour to be asked,” she said.

Her dream is to one day compose for the New York Philharmonic, among other groups.

Simms’ album, “Impurity Chains,” is available from the Canadian Music Centre, and is on Spotify.

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