History was made once again in Washington, D.C. on Monday, September 26, and it all started with a tweet. When Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, tweeted about the impressive (and largest) flute collection at the Library of Congress, she casually invited Lizzo (also a classically trained flautist) to come try the flutes, knowing she is coming to town to perform at Capital One Arena. Her invitation was readily accepted, with Lizzo replying, “IM COMING CARLA! AND IM PLAYIN THAT CRYSTAL FLUTE!!!!!”

Lizzo arrived at the Library of Congress on Monday with her mother and members of her band. She was given a tour of the flute collection, and she spent over three hours trying various and fascinating flutes in the collection, including a piccolo from John Philip Sousa's band, which was used to play the infamous solo from "The Stars and Stripes Forever" march. 

The star of the show, however, was President James Madison's crystal flute, given to him as a gift for his second inauguration by French craftsman, Claude Laurent. The flute was made in 1813. "It’s crystal. It’s like playing out of a wine glass," Lizzo said.

The silver joint is engraved with Madison’s name, title, and the year of its manufacture, 1813
Library of Congress
The silver joint is engraved with Madison’s name, title, and the year of its manufacture, 1813

Lizzo was able to share the experience with her fans when she asked if the Library of Congress might allow her to play this flute at her concert on Tuesday evening. The library’s collection, preservation, and security teams obliged and safely delivered the flute on stage at Capital One Arena. Lizzo trilled and dazzled her fans, as they screamed and cheered at this exciting and historic moment.

Historic, not only because of the showcase of this special and historic artifact before a crowd of thousands, but because Lizzo, as a Black singer and cultural sensation, was bringing into the limelight a priceless instrument that belonged to an owner of a plantation, built by Black enslaved persons. It should also be noted that Dr. Carla Hayden who made this moment possible, is the first African-American and first woman to hold the title of Librarian of Congress. Lizzo said it best herself, 

“Thank you to the Library of Congress for preserving our history and making history freaking cool. History is freaking cool, you guys.”

Fun fact: Lizzo plays Carnival of Venice (beginning) and an excerpt from Francis Poulenc's Flute Sonata (1:33) among others in the video above from the Washington Post. 


Read the full story by the Library of Congress here.

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