Everyone knows Lizzo is a lovable, body-positive pop star, but not everyone is aware she’s also a classically trained flautist. Carla Hayden knew, though, and when Lizzo’s The Special Tour brought her to D.C. earlier this week, the Librarian of Congress shot her shot, tweeting, “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.’”
Lizzo took her up on the offer (“IM COMING CARLA! AND IM PLAYIN THAT CRYSTAL FLUTE!!!!!”), and the rest was history—literally, as it involved the artist playing “the crystal flute made for President James Madison by Claude Laurent—a priceless instrument that Dolley Madison rescued from the White House in April 1814 as the British entered Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812,” per the Library of Congress.
Lizzo not only toured the Library’s “flute vault” on Monday, but also played the Madison flute—after, of course, the Library’s Music Division had ensured it could be played safely, and without damage—and others in the vault, Great Hall and Main Reading Room.
She didn’t stop there, though, requesting to play the Madison flute at her Tuesday night show at D.C.’s Capitol One Arena. The Library, of course, granted her request, which required quite the to-do:
When an item this valuable leaves any museum or library, for loan or display in an exhibition, preservation and security are the priorities. At the Library, curators ensure that the item can be transported in a customized protective container and a Library curator and security officer are always guarding the item until it is secured once more.
“As some of y’all may know I got invited to the Library of Congress,” Lizzo announced during her show, setting her own flute aside. “I want everybody to make some noise for James Madison’s crystal flute, y’all!” After Library curator Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford made the handoff, Lizzo told the crowd, “I’m scared. It’s crystal, it’s like playing out of a wine glass, bitch, so be patient!” This being Lizzo, the American Bop Star played the flute and twerked, putting an exclamation point on the whole saga. (And the flute made it home safe, of course.)
“We just made history tonight!” Lizzo told the crowd. “Thank you to the Library of Congress for preserving our history and making history freaking cool! History is freaking cool, you guys!”
“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,” an audience member told NPR. “It was so uniquely a moment that could only happen in D.C. and … the audience took pride in that.”
Watch Lizzo make history below, and find her 2016 Daytrotter session further down. You can learn more about the crystal flute right here.