Lizzo makes history by playing the Library of Congress’ 200-year-old crystal flute

28 September 2022, 17:51 | Updated: 29 September 2022, 12:23

Lizzo performs on a crystal flute, courtesy of the Library of Congress, in Washington D.C.
Lizzo performs on a crystal flute, courtesy of the Library of Congress, in Washington D.C. Picture: Twitter / @batmaniatis

By Siena Linton

Lizzo played a one-of-a-kind crystal flute that once belonged to former US President James Madison at a concert in Washington D.C.

Best known for her empowering lyrics and captivating stage presence, American singer and songwriter Lizzo is now quickly racking up a number of ‘firsts’ as a flautist.

Lizzo has a background in classical music, having first picked up the flute at age 10. In an interview with CBS News in 2019, she spoke about being a band geek in high school, and how she first started learning to play by listening to recordings by Irish flautist James Galway, and picking them up by ear.

Now, she has trilled her way onto the world stage, and earlier in 2022 made history with a captivating performance of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune on the red carpeted steps of the New York’s prestigious Met Gala.

Now, Lizzo has made history once again, by being the first person ever to play a 200-year-old flute, crafted from crystal.

Read more: Lizzo brought her flute to the Met Gala, and performed Debussy on the red carpet steps

On Friday 23 September the librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, tweeted Lizzo inviting her to play Madison’s 1813 crystal flute, which sits among the library’s collection of flutes – the largest in the world, comprising more than 1,800 flutes. “Like your song they are ‘Good as hell’,” she joked.

Lizzo replied with gusto: “I’m coming Carla! And I’m playing that crystal flute!!!!!”

On 27 September, Lizzo took to the stage with the dazzling historical item, first playing a single note to display its crystal clear tone, before branching out with a trill.

Lizzo plays James Madison's crystal flute in iconic moment on stage

After the concert, the Library of Congress published a tweet confirming that the flute is “safe & sound” back at the Library, and thanking the Capitol Police for escorting it. Later that day, they also published a series of videos on Twitter, showing Lizzo trying out various flutes and piccolos from their collection ahead of her stage debut.

The flute originally belonged to James Madison, America’s fourth President from 1809 to 1817, who wrote The Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

It was one of only two flutes made of crystal, and came from the workshop of Parisian flute-maker, Claude Laurent. According to an engraving on the silver panel that joins the headjoint to the body, the flute was made in 1813, specifically for James Madison.

As Lizzo coined on stage: “History is freaking cool, you guys!”

For more iconic Lizzo flute moments, here’s the time she showed off her skills on James Corden’s car pool karaoke with an impressive showtune – plus, the time she performed a Beethoven-inspired comedy sketch with the house orchestra of Saturday Night Live.