Old songs evoke memories of serenade, an old courtship custom

Last night, I listened to pop music of the 60’s and 70’s on the PBS TV station. It surged memories of my teens and early adulthood. I love the old songs. They carry charming melodies and lyrics. Reminiscing the old days and daydreaming come easily while listening to them. Baby boomers would agree that these oldies nostalgically remind us of our youth — days of fairy-tale dreams and overblown ambition, the restlessness for adulthood, the carefree spirit of gaiety, spunky defiance and miscalculated invincibilities. Maybe that’s why I like the old songs so much; they make me feel young again.

My favorites are the Beatles songs. I remember vividly that moonlit night of the third day I was back in my Philippine hometown from a year’s stint as an exchange student in the US. It was ten in the evening, and my quiet neighborhood was happily intruded by serenading six college young men, two strumming guitars and all singing Beatle songs. Quite a surprise. Not just because I got serenaded quickly upon my return when I hadn’t yet settled back – but also because these young men chose to serenade with the Beatle songs instead of the traditional Pilipino or Tagalog tunes. I loved it. I’m a fan of the Beatles, you can tell. I privately and secretly swooned over If I Fell, Till There Was You, I saw Her Standing There, Something, I Wanna Hold Your Hand. I was enjoying an impressive concert right below my window. Low fluorescent light from our veranda was on, so I peeked to see who the serenaders were. Some of them, I didn’t know. Very flattering, right? But in the fashion of a coy maiden, I didn’t invite them to come up. Thirty minutes of wonderful singing, and they were gone. Sigh! Didn’t get to meet the two not familiar to me.

I wish serenading would be brought back. It’s a tradition of courtship through singing, so enthralling and dramatic especially on moonlight nights when young dreams of romance are afloat. A serenade is an introduction to a confession of interest in a lady. Demure or coy females usually do not entertain the serenaders. They just quietly revel in the music and bask in the flattering custom, so I think. I did just that – didn’t acknowledge the serenaders, didn’t open the window wide for them, didn’t open the door to welcome them in. But I was enamored by their songs and gloated in their musical attention. Thinking back, I could have at least invited them upstairs to sit a while in the veranda and offered them tea or coffee. But not entertaining serenaders is all right, too. It can be interpreted as “the lady’s hard to get”. Or, the “lady’s fast asleep, don’t bother her”. Or, “sorry, she’s not interested”. Or, from me – “I’m coy – serenade me again, and I’ll open the window wide for you next time”. Funny, isn’t it? But those were the thoughts that jumbled my mind as I debated on whether to show my face from the window and acknowledge them with a smile or not. I peeked, but didn’t show my face. I enjoyed it, but didn’t say thank you for their captivating rendition. My fault – they didn’t serenade me again. But guess what, two of those young men bravely appeared at my door step one Saturday afternoon. With no intent to encourage them, I wasn’t too friendly. Hmmm … but serenade me again, I secretly wished.

Sing me the oldies, and I would love those, too. But actually, I am partial to serenades of Pilipino or Tagalog songs because I fancy they emote a depth of sentiment in lyrics and melody. The words are mushy with expressions of love and devotion. And especially when accompanied on the guitar, they fill all your senses, so to speak. My quick and elementary critique of these native love songs in the context of a serenade – when you’re in love, they can invigorate towards being more deeply in love. When you’re not in love, they can kindle dreams of falling in love. When you’re in despair, forget it; best not to listen. They can make you feel more desperate. Like you’ve lost the whole world … or lost at least in pining or longing.

So back again to the oldies that led me to thinking about serenades. I like the Bee Gees, too. Of course, I like the Sinatra tunes, the Gershwin, Berlin and Porter songs. I also enjoy Broadway musicales and classical pieces. Come to think of it, I simply delight in music – music that makes sense.

Linda P. Jacob

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