Some people travel to Washington, D.C., specifically to see the monuments and museums. They most likely don't anticipate witnessing history being made during a pop concert, but that's exactly what occurred to a packed arena of fans at Lizzo's performance on Tuesday.
The "The Special Tour" performer, who is also a classically trained flautist and a celebrity rapper, took a brief but significant detour from the setlist to play a crystal flute that was once owned by former President James Madison and was lent to her by the Library of Congress.
According to Lizzo's tweet, she is the first and only person to play the ancient flute.
According to the Library of Congress, the elaborate instrument was built in 1813 especially for Madison in commemoration of his second inauguration. According to the article, it's believed that Dolley Madison, a former first lady, grabbed the flute along with a small collection of other jewels from the White House when she escaped shortly before British troops set fire to Washington, D.C., in 1814.
So how did it end up on stage at Capital One Arena and in the hands of the top-charting performer? The quick response is, "With a lot of security."
This is the extended version. According to Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, the flute is one of the more than 1,800 flutes that are currently housed in the Library of Congress, which has the largest collection of its kind in the entire world (a position nominated by the U.S. president and confirmed by the Senate). Notably, Hayden holds the title for the first time both a woman and an African American.
Hayden invited Lizzo to "come see it and even play a couple when you are in D.C. next week" in a tweet on Friday that included several of Library's flutes, including Madison's.
They are 'Good as hell,' like your song says, she continued, adding an emoji wink.
Lizzo swiftly responded with her own joyful tweet:
Notably, Lizzo has been studying the flute since she was in elementary school, originally by ear and later in individual instruction (she initially dreamed of becoming a concert flautist before getting into rap and singing). She frequently uses her flute, which has its own Instagram account and is named Sasha after Beyonce's song "I Am Sasha Fierce," appearing on Saturday Night Live and during her NPR Tiny Desk Concert, among other places.
A customer tweeted on Monday that they had seen Lizzo at the Library of Congress and that Hayden had asked them directly whether it was okay if she violated the establishment's "quiet rule" by playing the flute (they said yes, of course). The Library of Congress also gave a hint about its famous visitor when it tweeted a picture of a notice bearing Lizzo's image and the words "flute guest" in all caps.
The flute was brought onstage by handlers for Lizzo's performance the following night. She cautiously accepted the instrument while wearing a shimmering bodysuit and gently moved it to the nearby standing microphone, warning that "it's like playing out of a wine glass, so be patient."
After lining up her fingers and playing a loud, resonating note, Lizzo appeared amazed as she widened her eyes and put out her tongue. The crowd cheered as she played another trill and twerked to the music. She then gave the instrument back and sprinted back to the microphone.
She yelled, "B***h, I just twerked and played James Madison's antique crystal flute." We recently achieved history tonight!
For "keeping our history and making history crazy cool," she expressed gratitude to the Library of Congress.
According to Carrie Arnold, who was there in the throng on Tuesday, the event had the feel of a celebration of advancement.
She texted, "It's not every day you see founding father's personal belongings resurrected as a symbol of pop culture and a celebration [of] Black female empowerment." The audience took satisfaction in the fact that "it was such a distinctly D.C. moment that could only happen here."
Later, the library tweeted that the flute had returned securely with the help of an escort from Capitol Police and that it would soon be providing more information about Lizzo's visit.
Meanwhile, people in D.C., history enthusiasts, and Lizzo fans from all around the world are sharing the videos on social media and appreciating everyone who was part in creating the unique event, especially Lizzo for promoting the value of history. As she stated on stage:
"You guys, history is crazy awesome!"