Lizzo plays 200-year-old crystal flute owned by James Madison live on stage: "We just made history"

Singer, rapper and flautist Lizzo took to the stage in Washington last night with perhaps one of the most historically significant musical instruments in the world: James Madison's crystal flute.

The 200-year-old flute belonged to the fourth US president, and is now housed in the Library of Congress. During a pause in Lizzo's performance on Tuesday evening, a woman walked on stage to present the singer with the instrument. "I am the first person to ever play it. Y'all are about to hear what it sounds like for the first time," Lizzo told the audience. "It's crystal, it's like playing out of a wine glass... be patient!"

After playing a trill while twerking, Lizzo held the flute high above her head. "Bitch, I just twerked and played James Madison's crystal flute from the 1800s! We just made history tonight!" she continued. "Thanks to the Library of Congress for preserving our history, and making history freaking cool!" 

On top of her skills as a singer, rapper, dancer and songwriter, Lizzo - real name Melissa Jefferson - is a talented classical flautist. Her flute is nicknamed Sasha Flute, and has its own Instagram page with over 300,000 followers. 

The day before her performance, Lizzo was invited to the Library of Congress to browse its extensive collection of woodwind instruments, which numbers almost 2000. Lizzo then briefly played Madison's crystal flute in the Library of Congress' Great Hall to an audience of staff members.

This is the first time that the crystal flute has been played since it was taken into care by the Library of Congress. The instrument was designed by Claude Laurent, a French mechanic and watchmaker, for James Madison's second inauguration, in 1813. The former president's name and title are engraved on the instrument. It is believed that the flute was saved by First Lady Dolley Madison, as British troops were burning the White House in 1814. 

Made of leaded crystal glass, crystal flutes were popular in the early 19th century. At the time, these flutes were more effective in preserving their pitch and tone during changes in temperature, in comparison with the wood and ivory flutes that were also available. 185 of Laurent's crystal flutes have survived to the present day, 17 of which are held by the Library of Congress.

Watch a recording of Lizzo's visit to the Library of Congress below, mock-narrated by Sasha Flute. 

Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.

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