Lizzo Plays President James Madison's Crystal Flute
On September 27, the world watched as Lizzo, stunning as ever in a bedazzled leotard, played President James Madison's crystal flute at a packed arena in Washington, DC. The three-time Grammy award winner has now made Madison’s flute a pop culture reference! How amazing would it be if the superstar brought her music to Montpelier, Madison’s historic home in Virginia? In fact, some media outlets are reporting on just that!
While Lizzo catapulted the flute into the global spotlight this week, it was also a pretty big deal 200 years ago. French flute maker Claude Laurent invented the crystal flute in 1806. Crafted from such delicate material, Laurent’s model had a brighter, clearer sound. It was a hit, winning Laurent the silver medal at the Paris Industrial Exposition. And these weren’t just any flutes; they were priceless show pieces, intricately designed with gold and silver and encrusted with jewels. Only the wealthiest, most prominent individuals could afford such lavish instruments.
Laurent made this specific flute for President Madison in 1813. He inscribed its silver fittings with "A S E President Madison des Etats Unis.” Laurent’s gift was perfect for a president! Here’s the catch: we have no evidence Madison actually played the flute! Surely Madison appreciated the gesture even if he wasn’t a flautist. Why, then, did Laurent write to Madison in 1815, "Mr. President, I took the liberty of sending to you about three years ago, a crystal flute of my invention. Please allow me to express to you the desire that I would learn if it has reached you and if this feeble homage of my industry has pleased you"? (translated from French).
Sadly, Montpelier’s halls may never have rung with the sound of this flute. But thanks to Lizzo, the world had the opportunity to hear its beautiful music. And what a musician to play it! Lizzo, classically trained with a concentration in flute, is a talented singer/songwriter who produces many different genres of music, including rap, hip hop, pop, and gospel. She is globally recognized for her powerful voice, lively performances, and dynamic personality. Her songs are an example of how music is a universal language that brings people together. Whatever genre, music helps people connect, express emotions, and create deep, lasting bonds.
While James Madison may not have played the crystal flute, we are overjoyed that Lizzo shared that sound with the world when she played it at her concert this week! Truly a flute for royalty, we couldn’t think of a better person to give it new life than Lizzo!
As Lizzo continues her concert tour in the coming weeks, we’re crossing our fingers that she would consider adding Montpelier to her schedule, once home to Madison and the now famous crystal flute.
Photos by Shawn Miller, Library of Congress.