It all started when Carla Hayden, the first African American librarian of Congress, tweeted at Lizzo when she got to know the singer had a concert in D.C.
Lizzo made history as she performed on a 200-year-old flute that was originally owned by President James Madison and she may also be the first person to ever play it. The 34-year-old singer, who is also a skilled flautist, had the chance to perform using the rare crystal flute in Washington, D.C., during her concert. Lizzo took a brief but significant detour from her planned setlist of "The Special Tour" to play the crystal flute.
Dressed in a glittering bodysuit, she cautiously took the instrument in her hands and carefully moved toward the nearby standing microphone. "It's crystal, it's like playing out of a wine glass," she said after playing a few notes. "B***h, I just twerked and played James Madison's crystal flute from the 1800s," she exclaimed. "We just made history tonight!" She thanked the Library of Congress for "preserving our history and making history freaking cool."
The Library of Congress says it worked with curators and Capitol Police to make Lizzo playing James Madison’s flute happen safely last night. This is Lizzo practicing at the library on Monday. The 1813 flute was gifted to Madison and later saved by Dolley Madison. Photo from LOC. pic.twitter.com/tImV8LvVCm— Chelsea Cirruzzo (@ChelseaCirruzzo) September 28, 2022
According to Lizzo's tweet, she is the first and only person to play the instrument. At least one other person has played it previously. "NOBODY HAS EVER HEARD THIS FAMOUS CRYSTAL FLUTE BEFORE," she wrote. "NOW YOU HAVE." It all started when Carla Hayden, the first African American librarian of Congress, learned that Lizzo planned a concert in Washington, D.C., and she tweeted Lizzo about the flute collection at the Library of Congress. The world's oldest collection of flutes can be found at the Library of Congress, the oldest cultural institution in the country and the research branch of Congress. "The @librarycongress has the largest flute collection in the world with more than 1,800. It incl Pres James Madison’s 1813 crystal flute. @lizzo we would love for you to come see it and even play a couple when you are in DC next week. Like your song they are 'Good as hell.' 😉," she tweeted, referencing Lizzo's single "Good as Hell".
Lizzo quickly agreed to explore the collection, "I'M COMING CARLA! AND I'M PLAYIN THAT CRYSTAL FLUTE!!!!!" she tweeted. Lizzo visited the Library of Congress on Monday and went on a tour of the flute collection.
The @librarycongress has the largest flute collection in the world with more than 1,800. It incl Pres James Madison’s 1813 crystal flute. @lizzo we would love for you to come see it and even play a couple when you are in DC next week. Like your song they are “Good as hell.”😉 pic.twitter.com/2FkUFZfIYh— Carla Hayden (@LibnOfCongress) September 23, 2022
According to the Library of Congress, Claude Laurent, a clockmaker who also had a passion for flutes, created the crystal flute for Madison. While most flutes were made of wood or ivory, Laurent created the glass flute, which gained popularity because it maintained its pitch and tone better. However, because Laurent was essentially the only one producing glass flutes, they ultimately lost favor, and only 185 are recognized to exist as of right now. When the British invaded Washington, D.C., in April 1814 as part of the War of 1812, the glass flute in the Library of Congress' collection was nearly destroyed. But Dolley Madison, the first lady, retrieved it from the White House.
This makes my heart swell. ❤️ @lizzo you are a gift to all of us.— Carla Hayden (@LibnOfCongress) September 28, 2022
And it’s YOU who just made history much more cooler.
We appreciate all the @librarycongress love at the concert last night. We can’t wait to have you back. #LizzoAtLOC https://t.co/R5oAdKxXYW
In addition to touring the collection, Lizzo practiced her flute technique in the Library's Great Hall. Lizzo took Madison's crystal flute with reverence and gently tried to play a few notes. Given that the instrument is more than 200 years old, this was not simple. When she was in the Great Hall and Main Reading Room, she played a couple more. She then sang for the staff and a few researchers while using a more useful flute from the collection. "For your friendly national library, this was a perfect moment to show a new generation how we preserve the country’s rich cultural heritage. The Library’s vision is that all Americans are connected to our holdings. We want people to see them," the library said.
A flute @lizzo played in the Main Reading Room Monday (with permission from some lucky researchers who were there!) looks similar to the crystal one she had at her concert, but is actually plexiglass. It is also very rare & was manufactured when the material was first invented.🔊 pic.twitter.com/3i33D9NdQV— Library of Congress (@librarycongress) September 28, 2022
Carrie Arnold, a person in the crowd at the concert shared with NPR that the moment was in many ways a defining moment of celebration for Black women. "It's not often you see founding father's personal artifacts reclaimed as a symbol of pop culture and a celebration [of] Black female empowerment," she wrote via text. "It was so uniquely a moment that could only happen in D.C. and ... the audience took pride in that."