The story we tell you today is that of Will, a great musician, an extraordinary person, who for years, “um dia de cada vez” has entered in my life and Alex’s.
Alex returning from work and I walking through the streets of Lisbon with my tourists, we have been surprised and enchanted many times by Will’s unique music.
Willfredo, to be precise. “But for everyone I’m Will,” he tells me as soon as we start talking.
Will is Swiss, but he has known Lisbon for about 40 years. Two marriages behind him, with two Portuguese women, two children, a 26-year-old girl and a 28-year-old boy, both abroad, and a girlfriend from Dakar who has been repatriated some time ago, leaving him here “suspended”, as he himself says .
Will’s life is an extraordinary life, difficult but courageous. And today it is up to us to try to tell you about it.
Will has a degree in anthropology, was an academic, translator, taught German, French and English to future interpreters at ISLA (Lisbon Institute of Languages and Administration, ed) for more than 10 years, but Will is above all a musician, a classical guitarist.
Will, is Willfredo Mergner, or Fredo Mergner as he is best known. Guitarist of the famous “Resistência” band of the 90s.
For those who have not had the opportunity to listen to it, I invite you to do so, for example in “A sombra da figueira”
A successful guitarist, a sensitive artist, a musician of great value, capable of ranging from Fado, to Jazz, to classical music.
But today is Will, who greets me saying “I don’t speak Italian, but I can speak with this” and starts playing “O sole mio” leaving me speechless. “It’s the Lisbon sun. It’s fado, ”he says.
There is confusion around him, people chat, laugh, drink. And they listen distractedly, without understanding the luck they have at that moment.
We are in Largo do Carmo, in Lisbon. It is getting evening. At the kiosk in the square there are many people sitting for a drink.
And among them, sitting on an improvised stool, embracing his guitar, there is him: Will.
Will has been playing on the street for a few years. Before he was often found in his favorite stage, the viewpoint at Largo Das Portas do Sol, then on the stairs of Calçada do Duque and now in Largo do Carmo.
Will has always had his audience, he tells us. The squares had become his concert halls. And there were always those who stopped to listen to him.
And in the meantime he continued to compose music: fado, jazz, sonatas.
It doesn’t matter why Will started playing on the street, that’s not the part of the story we want to tell.
But his love for music, for his guitar.
I ask him when he started playing and he explains to me that to play the guitar you have to be more adult, for the evolution of the hands, around 14 years old. But that he has practically always played. Music has accompanied him all his life.
And when I ask him if he plays other instruments, he says “No! No one who loves an instrument with all their heart can play another with the same intensity ”.
Because for Will it is like that. The guitar is his woman, his love, his life partner.
It is only on her that his hands can slide, it is only from her chest that the right harmony can come out to tell his soul.
Playing another instrument would be like betraying her. And Will can’t, because he loves her too much.
And we see this love, we feel it. Will never leaves his guitar, he holds it in his arms, like a lover the woman he loves.
And as he hugs her her gaze is lost.
The guitar that Will plays today is not the one he used in his concerts years ago, that was stolen. This one was given to him some time ago. But Will loves her the same way.
He can’t do without it, because playing is his life, his way of expressing himself. It is through music that Will talks about himself.
Better than he can’t do with words. Because in music there is his soul.
The pandemic has certainly made his life more complicated, added other hardships. And, today more than yesterday, playing helps him survive.
But Will is forced to do it in a more crowded place, because the pandemic has certainly limited the usual public that has always followed him.
And this just doesn’t suit him.
He says he feels tired, because playing like this doesn’t allow him to indulge in music. He could strum something modern and loud and earn a little more and with less effort, he tells me. But he doesn’t want to.
Quality music first and foremost. Good music must be respected. And it’s quality music that Will wants to play.
Will wants to abandon himself to the music, to let his soul express itself among the vibrating notes that come out of his guitar. “And this tires, it wears out,” he says. Because in this way you give yourself without filters, without limits, without discounts. You give yourself, and you do it completely. And playing like this is for few. And for few it is also to listen in respectful silence.
And it is this silence that is missing between the noises of glasses and the laughter of distracted people. And this for Will is the greatest pain. More than all the difficulties that life has put him and still puts before him, he suffers from the noise, from the fact of not being able to play in silence, of not being able to give himself completely as he would like.
But Will does not give up, he is already thinking about new projects. He already has an opera ready, a guitar concert that he has been working on for a while and that he hopes to see published.
Will works there with a fellow guitarist and the pandemic has suspended their meetings. But he is ready to start again, because he still has a lot to tell us.
And the difficulties have not extinguished the flame of his creativity at all.
We move away from the confusion a little. Let’s go and sit on the stairs of the Carmo church. And then Will plays for us, just for us, in silence as he likes it.
In a moment his eyes close, his hands begin to slide on his guitar, and the music of “Canção do mar” begins to spread on this warm summer evening.
Will plays hugging his guitar, squeezes it tightly as the chords follow each other fast. His eyes are closed, his mind is elsewhere, with his music, among those notes that have a whole life to tell.
Oh, my, you two have captured Will and others here with such heart! Sarah and I moved here six months ago and live in Chiado and see Will frequently and we always try to chat and drop a few coins for him. I am so delighted to have discovered your evocative and inspiring photos and blog! Keep up the wonderful sharing of the lives of those who live and work here. Muito obrigado!
Thank you David for your beautiful words. Me and Alex are very happy to know that our story can help to know Will better. He is a very special person. You perfectly understand the idea our project: discover together the stories of very special people we meet everyday