Stray Birds enjoy refuge of musical community

For the CDTNovember 22, 2013 

Before embarking on a tour of the U.K. and Ireland, The Stray Birds, from left, Charles Muench, Maya DeVitry and Oliver Craven, will return to Centre County for another low-fi performance at Millheim’s Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks.

DOUG SEYMOUR — Photo provided


    What: The Stray Birds

    When: 5 p.m. Nov. 24

    Where: Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks, 100 W. Main St., Millheim

    Info:, 349-8850

Drawing upon the richness of American folk music tradition and born in the heartland of Pennsylvania, a harmonious and compelling collaboration of voice and strings will revisit the area as The Stray Birds will perform at the Elk Creek Café in Millheim November 24.

The trio features Maya de Vitry on fiddle, banjo and guitar; Oliver Craven on fiddle and guitar; and Charles Muench on upright bass. All three are originally from Lancaster County, having grown up within a few miles of farmland from each other. With music always playing in their homes, the three young artists had more than enough influences from within their own families.

The Stray Birds’ sound lies in outstanding songwriting; soaring harmony; the pure, sweet voice of de Vitry; and the incredible musicianship of Craven and Muench. The elements come together to form a perfect blend of the raw sound of wood and strings and three marvelous voices.

“We put a lot of joy and passion into our shows, and we receive a lot of good energy from our audiences,” de Vitry said. “I think live music is good for people, and they know it. By the end of the night, I begin to really feel a sense of community with the audience, since we’ve all just traveled through an hour or so of music together.”

The Stray Birds have played at Elk Creek before and said they love it because of its club atmosphere and its clear and full sound system.

“It’s not too different than most of our performances when people sit and listen consciously,” Muench said. “That is when we do our best and Elk Creek lends itself to that vibe.”

No matter the venue, The Stray Birds appreciate and embrace the wide range of audiences that show up to enjoy their special brand of music. “We’ve played for seas of white hair, and we’ve played for 80 college students crammed into a single living room,” de Vitry said. “Sometimes babies show up. Sometimes 10 year olds request songs.”

Their passionate live performances have been followed by numerous appearances, including NPR’s Mountain Stage, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Kerrville Folk Festival, and the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Their ambitious touring schedule includes an appearance at the 2014 Celtic Connections festival in Scotland, followed by a month-long tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland. The trio plans to release its second full-length album next spring.

Because our lives are so filled with electronics and screens these days, de Vitry said it feels refreshing to just make music together. “People come in to a show from their day – whatever it held – and we come to the show after several hours of weary travel,” she said. “Our show is the highlight of our day, and we hope it can light up someone else’s day too.”

After a busy, stressful work day, The Stray Birds know they can always provide an escape for their audiences and for themselves. “People are enjoying the music we create, we enjoy making it, and I feel especially alive when I’m making music,” de Vitry said. “That’s the essence of it. The world feels crazy sometimes. Music is a refuge and a celebration.”

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