In a certain episode of the 2005 series of Doctor Who, Jack Harness waltzes with Rose Tyler in front of the Big Ben (no, really) during the height of the London Blitz with Moonlight Serenade playing on the background. In the last scene of the next episode, which brought this story to an end, one gets to see the Doctor too trying to waltz to this song. By a series of events I was reminded of this episode today, and I realised that I'd loved this Doctor Who episode when I saw it for the first time, and I had been extremely curious about the song, without succeeding in finding out then which one it was. When I finally heard it six months later in an ante-chamber of a tiny Charlottenburg restaurant, I'd forgotten about the British hero, and was irrevocably in love with the tune and the words. It had become my Berlin tune in the remaining days, humming it in the U-Bahn, listening to it in a loop as long as I was in the flat, and remembering it with equal parts of joy and agony between difficult classes. Today, the curious series of events finally linked the Doctor Who episode with the song in my mind, and I was thrilled and nostalgic.
I choose to write 'nostalgic', but the mix of emotions are layered and problematic. The part of me that longs to be a starving jazz singer in a London bar during the Blitz wants to serenade to the tunes in the streets during a blackout with a man in uniform. But thanks to the linear progression of time, that can never be possible. A considerable part inside me however, longs for that winter in Berlin, spent mostly alone, getting lost in the snow, having little epiphanies, reading books on the train, trying not to get lost, and discovering music. It was at a chamber theatre performance that I first heard the song, and throughout the drinking bout that followed, to the story of the prostitutes and abandoned mansions, and the drowsy walk back home, I tried to keep the tune alive in my mind. I woke up very late the next day, and my first instinct was to reach out for the tablet beside me and search for the song. I found many versions, most of them quite unlike the one the girls had sung on stage the previous night, and just as I was about to give up, thinking that perhaps the girls had sweetened the melody, I found this video.
The stars are aglow,
And tonight how their light sets me dreaming.
My love, do you know.
That your eyes are like stars brightly beaming?
I bring you, and I sing you a moonlight serenade.