Lizzo Plays James Madison’s 200-Year-Old Crystal Flute Onstage

At Lizzo’s concert, history and music mingled as the singer played a 200-year-old crystal flute handmade for President James Madison.

The 34-year-old, who has played the flute since childhood, was invited to test out some of the Library’s large collection of flutes by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden through Twitter.

“Like your song,” Hayden tweeted, “they are ‘Good as hell.’ ” 

Lizzo responded the following day, writing in all caps, “I’m coming Carla! And I’m playing that crystal flute!”

The Library shared that Lizzo was given a grand tour of the Library’s flute vault on Monday, where she was allowed to practice on various flutes before the event and blew a few notes in the Great Hall and Main Reading Room.

According to Hayden, the crystal flute Lizzo played at her concert in Washington, D.C. is one of around 1,700 flutes in the Library’s enormous collection, which is the world’s biggest.

Lizzo played her own flute, Sasha Flute, onstage at the Capital One Arena before Library curator Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford delicately carried the crystal flute over for Lizzo to play.

“I’m scared,” Lizzo told the crowd. “It’s crystal, it’s like playing out of a wine glass!”

Lizzo just performed a few notes before twerking for the audience.

“Nobody has ever heard this famous crystal flute before,” Lizzo tweeted after the show, again in all caps. “Now you have.” 

According to Ward-Bamford, the flute has only been played a few times, most likely for a public Madison event. It was most likely played more frequently throughout Madison’s lifetime.

The name of President James Madison is inscribed on a unique crystal flute made in 1813.

At the height of the glass instrument’s popularity, Claude Laurent, a French artisan who developed the leaded glass flute in 1806 and delivered a crystal flute to President James Madison for his second inauguration. It bears Madison’s name, title, and year of manufacturing.

Laurent’s innovation came at a period when most flutes were made of wood or ivory. Glass flutes retained their pitch and tone better throughout temperature fluctuations. Still, they became obsolete with the advent of metal flutes in the mid-nineteenth century.

Only 185 of Laurent’s glass flutes exist today, with the Library possessing 17 of them.

The flute was declared safe to play without risk of harm, according to the Library. In reality, many of the flutes in the collection were given to the museum to be played.

“This sort of thing is not all that unusual,” the Library tweeted.

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