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Modern opera project led by Admiral Fallow gives Scottish distillers something to sing about

An exciting new arts project created by a partnership which includes a top Scottish folk band, composer and some of the country’s best distilleries is aiming to bring modern opera to the masses. 

Published: October 3, 2018
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Written by playwright Sian Evans, Navigate the Blood will tour the country, making appearances at production sites in the traditional distilling regions of the Lowlands, Highlands and Islands.

Using working distilleries as a performance space, the Navigate the Blood project will visit regions where there is no accessible opera house, giving many people an opportunity to see live opera for the first time.

Scottish indie-folk band Admiral Fallow have joined forces with composer Gareth Williams to produce the music for the opera.

The first show will take place at Glasgow Distillery Company. Picture: Chris Watt

Working with Sian and classical opera singers, the group have created a modern opera that will be performed within the industrial background of a working distillery.

The story itself is set within a small family distillery and will explore the trials of a couple whose son has disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

Distilling as an industry in Scotland employs, directly and indirectly, more than 41,000 people, with the last ten years seeing growth not only in the distilling of whisky but also a massive increase in the production of gin, with 70 per cent of the gin being produced in the UK now being distilled north of the Border.

With two million tourists visiting Scottish Distilleries last year, Navigate the Blood will be performed against this background of industry and employment, with the new production of singing, music, theatre and storytelling created to “reflect the lives of the distillery community in Scotland”.

Kicking off on the first weekend of November at the Glasgow Distillery Company in the city’s southside, the production will then tour the country, visiting sites such as Oban Distillery, Ardnahoe Distillery on Islay, Lost Loch Distillery in Aboyne and Summerhall in Edinburgh.

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Glasgow Distillery co-founder Liam Hughes said: “We are delighted to be hosting the opening nights of the world premiere of Navigate the Blood at Glasgow Distillery on 2-3 November.

“Three years ago, Gareth Williams and I were discussing how strange it was that two boys from Armagh were here in Glasgow. Stranger still, one had written an opera (The Sloans Opera) and one had opened a distillery. We had a conversation over a few beers about the feasibility of an opera in a distillery and three years later, this idea has become a reality.

“It’s doubly exciting for us as it just so happens that this coincides with the release of our very first Whisky, 1770 Glasgow Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Glasgow’s first Single Malt from the city’s first new independent single malt distillery in over a century”

James Robert Carson, artistic director for New Opera In Scotland Events (Noise), said: “Scotland has a deep and historic involvement with the art of distilling.

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“By performing Navigate the Blood in each of the five distinct distilling regions, Noise has created an opera that reflects and celebrates the success and continued innovation of this remarkable industry.

“The band Admiral Fallow and composer Gareth Williams have created a truly magical and original score, with a story set in a distillery.

“Noise is delighted to be able to tour this new production to audiences who live in some of the country’s most outstandingly beautiful areas and  work in such unique communities.”

• For more information or to book tickets please visit

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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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