Ever the pioneer, Lizzo crossed off another first during the Washington, DC stop of her tour – playing an approximately 200-year-old crystal flute that belonged to a former US president.
The “About Damn Time” singer and accomplished flutist carefully played the delicate woodwind, which was sent as a gift to James Madison in 1813 by the French flute maker Claude Laurent. The Library of Congress has maintained the flute in its vault for decades before allowing Lizzo to play it onstage.
In footage shared by concertgoers, Lizzo excitedly and delicately handled the flute under the careful watch of Library staff and Capitol Police. She briefly shared the history of the flute with her audience and said she was “the first person to ever play it.”
“B***h, I’m scared,” she said to the audience’s laughter. “It’s crystal. It’s like playing out of a wine glass, b***h, so be patient.”
She played a note on the crystal flute, pausing excitedly after it made a sound, according to a video Lizzo shared on social media. Then, she blew a few more fluttery notes on it, cautiously twerking as she played, as is her signature. After a few seconds, she held the flute high in the air, victorious, and carefully returned it to the staff waiting a few feet away.
“B,***h, I just twerked and played James Madison’s crystal flute from the 1800s,” she said incredulously. “We just made history tonight!”
Lizzo then thanked the library for “preserving our history” and reminded her fans that “history is freaking cool.”
Earlier this week, the Library of Congress invited Lizzo to visit its collection of 1,700 flutes, the largest in the world, per the Library. She carefully played the flute there first before she “serenaded employees and a few researchers” with a “more practical” woodwind, the Library said.
Lizzo asked the Library if she could play the famed flute for a few moments during her Washington show, and the Library obliged, though it sent Capitol Police and several other staffers in charge of security along with the flute to ensure its safety.
The recent Emmy winner regularly plays the flute during her concerts and has experimented with other rare and valuable flutes, including an 18k-gold instrument, though she’s partial to one woodwind named Sasha Flute.
The flute is exceptionally rare: the Library of Congress has 20 Laurent-made flutes in its vault, but it’s only one of two made of crystal, according to the Library. Madison’s custom-made flute contained a silver joint, engraved with his name.
But its journey to the Library’s collection was circuitous and took over 100 years. The flute may have been saved by first lady Dolley Madison during the White House fire in 1814, the Library said. It came into the possession of Dolley Madison’s son from her first marriage, John Payne Todd, who bequeathed it to Washington-based Dr. Cornelius Boyle.
Boyle’s descendents allowed the flute to be displayed in 1903 at the US National Museum, an original part of the Smithsonian Institution, until Dayton C. Miller, another physician and woodwind enthusiast, purchased it. He later donated the crystal flute, along with 1,700 instruments, to the Library in 1941, where the flute has remained until its stage debut with Lizzo.