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Lizzo performs on rarely-played James Madison glass flute at DC concert

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZZO: (Playing flute).

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

This is the haunting sound of Lizzo trying out a more-than-200-year-old glass flute at the Library of Congress earlier this week. As NPR's Chloe Veltman reports, the pop music star delighted fans when she played the historic instrument, which belonged to founding father James Madison at a concert in Washington, D.C., last night.

CHLOE VELTMAN, BYLINE: When Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden found out Lizzo was coming to D.C., she tagged the star and classically trained flautist in a tweet, inviting her to come check out the library's formidable collection of historic flutes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZZO: (Playing flute).

VELTMAN: Lizzo had a go on President James Madison's flute. And then Hayden offered her the opportunity to play the instrument at her concert. Security was tight. Library spokesman Roswell Encina says the flute even had its own escort.

ROSWELL ENCINA: We contacted Capitol Police to make sure that the flute was transported to the arena safely. Two curators from the music division were with it.

VELTMAN: This isn't any old glass tube. Encina says master French flute maker Claude Laurent made the instrument specially for Madison. It nearly perished when the British set fire to the White House in 1814.

ENCINA: It's one of the items that Dolley Madison rescued from the White House, along, of course, with George Washington's portrait.

(CHEERING)

VELTMAN: The audience at Capital One Arena in D.C. last night screamed in anticipation as Lizzo lifted the flute to her lips and told her fans to be patient.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZZO: It's like playing out of a wine glass.

(LAUGHTER)

VELTMAN: Wearing a sequined bodysuit that shimmered like the instrument she held in her hands, she played one long note...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZZO: (Playing flute).

(CHEERING)

VELTMAN: ...Did a little trill and a little twerk...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZZO: (Playing flute).

(CHEERING)

VELTMAN: ...And thanked to the Library of Congress for the opportunity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZZO: We just made history tonight.

VELTMAN: She might be right. According to the Library of Congress, it's unlikely anyone else, not even James Madison, has ever played this flute.

Chloe Veltman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF LIZZO SONG, "ABOUT DAMN TIME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: September 29, 2022 at 12:00 AM EDT
Although a spokesman for the Library of Congress said they thought it unlikely anyone else had played the James Madison flute before Lizzo, NPR's Melissa Block previously interviewed an instructor of Baroque flute who played it on our air in 2001.
Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.