À Propos host Jim Corcoran hangs up the mic, talks past, present and future
Corcoran built career on highlighting quality French Canadian music for Anglo ears
After 30 years of hosting the CBC Radio One show À Propos, Jim Corcoran has announced he’ll be hanging up the mic.
Corcoran built a career on French Canadian music — not only writing and recording his own award-winning albums, but highlighting the best of it on the Anglo airwaves of CBC.
On top of hosting 1,260 episodes, Corcoran mentored and promoted emerging talent in Quebec.
Despite growing up a unilingual anglophone in the Eastern Townships, Corcoran fell in love with French Canadian music as a young man. So much so that he chose to study French at Bishop’s University.
Corcoran spoke to CBC Montreal All in a Weekend host Ainslie MacLellan about building bridges between communities, finding music that’s out of the box, and his plans for after the final episode of À Propos airs Sept. 1.
The following are excerpts of that interview.
On diversifying your playlist
“The anglophone community is so well-served with great anglophone artists, and there are very few francophones in Quebec who know about [anglophone artists]. They would win so much to know them, but there’s nobody making that happen on a regular basis. À Propos shared French music with a lot of anglophones.”
“The anglophones had the privilege of hearing this stuff. There’s curiosity, but it’s tough to make the contact. People aren’t taking chances. We’re always hearing the same people on variety shows, we’re always hearing the same music, and it’s foolproof — but it’s foolish.”
On building bridges
“For decades, I would say, ‘These are amazing songwriters, poets…’ I was sort of obliging the listener, imposing an act of faith. So I decided a few years ago to translate a few songs [on air]. Then I would go two or three weeks without translation; I would hear from the listeners, ‘When are you going to translate more songs, Jim?’ It became a signature of the program and I’m really glad I did it.”
“There was a journalist for Le Devoir, Sylvain Cormier, he told me, ‘I heard the program and you present the Salomé Leclerc song. I liked that song. I liked her music, but when I heard the translation, I heard the song. I realized that I hadn’t fully understood her song. I never hear the lyric twice in a row, and often you’re attracted by the music and you hear bits and pieces of it, but when I hear the entire song translated, given to me, and I listen to it again, I listen so much more attentively.’ And I went, ‘Yes!'”
“Some of the listeners, I put them it touch with songwriters. That was really cool, I was a matchmaker.”
On what’s next
“People are listening in different ways. When I hear someone listen to a new song on his or her phone I’m thinking oh my goodness, you’re missing it. When I was an adolescent, receiving a new record was a religious experience. I would sit down, make sure that the lighting was perfect … I would listen to an album from beginning to end.”
“I have a bundle of records at home that I haven’t had time to listen to because À Propos was very time consuming. Sometimes I would listen to a lot of music and find nothing. It wasn’t time wasted, it was time invested in the program. But it became frustrating at times, until all of a sudden some of these pearls would show up, and it’s all worth it.”
“I’ll still consume music. Perhaps a bit less of Quebec’s francophone music, because I want to reach out to other things and there are some great songwriters all across Canada whose records I have and I haven’t had time to listen to.”