At a concert in Washington on Tuesday night, Lizzo paused her performance when a woman came on stage with a flute.
Wearing a glittery bodysuit, the singer held the instrument carefully.
“Wow,” she said. Holding it up to the audience, Lizzo explained: “It’s crystal. It’s like playing out of a wine glass.”
She proceeded to play a note. As the crowd went wild, Lizzo trilled the flute while twerking.
“I just twerked and played James Madison’s crystal flute from the 1800s,” Lizzo told the audience, after returning the flute. “We just made history tonight.”
In an Instagram caption to video of the moment, Lizzo wrote in all-caps: “IT’S LITERALLY AN HEIRLOOM – LIKE… AS A FLUTE PLAYER THIS IS ICONIC AND I WILL NEVER BE OVER IT.”
Madison was the fourth US president, in office from 1809 to 1817. Ordinarily, his crystal flute is housed at the Library of Congress. It was specially made for Madison’s second inauguration by Claude Laurent, a French watchmaker and mechanic. Madison’s name and title are engraved on the instrument, as is 1813, the year it was made.
Some believe Dolley Madison, the first lady, saved the flute along with a famous portrait of George Washington, the first president, before British troops burned the White House in 1814.
More than 200 years later, Lizzo, who was born Melissa Jefferson, put the flute back in the spotlight. By Thursday, a video of her playing Madison’s flute had been liked more than 350,000 times on Instagram.
The day before her concert, Lizzo was invited to the Library of Congress to explore its flute collection – it has nearly 2,000 of them – and to try out some of the instruments, including Madison’s flute.
To a small audience of staff members, she played a piece in the library Great Hall. She later posted a video of her performance on her Instagram account.
“She is amazingly talented,” Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford, curator for the Library of Congress flute collection, told the Washington Post. “It was one happy afternoon watching her enjoy and love being at the library and Great Hall.”
A classically trained flautist, Lizzo has used her own instrument, named Sasha Flute, at concerts, often twerking while playing.
In a video posted to Instagram, Sasha Flute “narrated” a video of Lizzo trying out instruments from the Library of Congress collection.
“Child, I don’t know what flute this is, but that is 500-year-old spit she tasting,” the narrator said as Lizzo played one small flute.
As Lizzo played Madison’s flute on Tuesday, she drew roars from the crowd. She then thanked the library.
“Thank you to the Library of Congress for preserving our history and making history so freaking cool,” she said. “History is freaking cool, you guys.”