Lizzo made history at a concert on Tuesday – by playing a 200-year-old flute that once belong to President James Madison. The 34-year-old singer – who is known for being a talented flautist – got the opportunity to play the priceless crystal flute in Washington, D.C., where the historic instrument happens to live.
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest cultural institution and the research arm of Congress, is home to the world’s oldest flute collection. When librarian Carla Hayden saw Lizzo was coming to D.C. to perform, she simply tweeted at the star about the flute collection.
“Like your song, they are ‘Good as hell,'” she wrote, quoting Lizzo’s single “Good as Hell.”
Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Jefferson, retweeted the librarian and accepted an offer to see the collection: “IM COMING CARLA! AND I’M PLAYIN THAT CRYSTAL FLUTE!!!!!” she tweeted.
On Monday, Lizzo showed up at the Library of Congress and took a tour of the flute collection. The crystal flute was made for Madison by Claude Laurent, who was a clockmaker but had an interest in flutes, according to the Library of Congress.
While most flutes were made of wood or ivory, Laurent invented the glass flute, and since it held its pitch and tone better, it became popular. But because Laurent was almost the only person making glass flutes, they eventually faded in popularity and only 185 are known to exist today.
The glass flute in the Library of Congress collection was almost destroyed in April 1814, when the British entered Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. However, first lady Dolley Madison rescued it from the White House.
Lizzo not only toured the collection, but she practiced playing the iconic flute at the Library’s Great Hall. The next day, it was time for her to play the relic for thousands of her fans at Capitol One Arena.
The flute was carefully and securely transported to the arena and library curator Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford walked it out on stage. “This work by a team of backstage professionals enabled an enraptured audience to learn about the Library’s treasures in an exciting way,” Library of Congress said.
Lizzo explained the backstory to the flute and admitted she was scared to grasp it. “It’s crystal, it’s like playing out of a wine glass,” she told the crowd.
She played a few notes and declared: “We just made history tonight!”