As the “Music in the Park” series continues at Weeden Park in Lawrenceville, a plethora of eclectic local bands are displaying their talents for all of the community to see.
On July 26, Lawrenceville got a taste of DarlaRich, a dynamic duo that resides in Lawrenceville, and who works with their instruments and voices to create new renditions of classic genres of music while complementing each other’s styles.
Darla and Rich Tarpinian began their individual musical journeys when they were both children hundreds of miles away from each other. Since Darla grew up in Kentucky and Rich grew up in upstate New York, the types of music that they were exposed to were slightly different to say the least, but the love that they both had for music was incredibly comparable.
Darla is from a family of musicians, which allowed her to start singing at a very young age. She began with mostly gospel music a cappella while singing in the chorus at her church, and was also heavily influenced by country and folk since her father was a country-roots guitar player who sang along with her three brothers. Later on in her life is when she found a love for jazz and classical music, which is more of the music that she and Rich play.
However, singing with the choir when she was younger really evoked Darla’s main contribution to the current duo, which is her ability to adapt and create various ranges of harmonies according to whatever song is being played.
“Darla had to create gospel harmonies on the fly, and being the youngest, she would have to come in and add the second or third harmony,” Rich said. “It worked into what we do. We start working with a song, and she’ll just add a harmony to it and not have a hard time making it interesting.”
Much like Darla’s roots, Rich also came from a musical background and starting singing in the choir when he was young. Since his sister was a voice major and music teacher, he learned all of the basic necessities and technicalities of music at a very young age. Also like Darla, Rich learned the complexities of harmony from his music teacher, which helped him gain an appreciation for music.
Since Rich grew up in Massena, N.Y., a town that borders Canada, he picked up a lot of radio stations from Montreal, which is where he was exposed to a lot of jazz music from the B-Bop era. He became fond of the music of Charlie Parker, which is where he ultimately found his main interest in jazz.
One of the main things that sets Rich apart from Darla is his heritage. Being Armenian, Rich explained how that influenced his interests and style, as well as his and Darla’s duo.
“I grew up listening to Armenian music, which is a lot like jazz,” he said. “It has a lot of complex rhythms coupled with a lot of improvisation. It’s basically folk music with acoustic instruments. It found its way into my musical vocabulary.”
While Darla gained most of her vocal technique and experience while singing for the Cincinnati City Opera for 11 years, Rich acquired his singing and acoustic skills while attending college at The Crane School of Music, where he was truly exposed to all of the different genres and styles of music.
In 1995, Darla and Rich’s styles met, and they collaborated to form a balanced duo with Rich on the guitar and Darla as the singer. However, shortly after they combined their talents, Darla became interested in the instrumental side of things and started to study the bass guitar.
“I played piano when I was a kid, so being a part of the band and being able to contribute also as an instrumentalist appealed to me,” Darla said. “I loved the rhythms. I started studying electric base, and that’s what I play primarily, but I also play the upright base, and I just continued to study and work on that. It’s a very great instrument to work with. I also moved to acoustic bass as well.”
After working together for five years, Rich and Darla also intermingled their lives and married. Darla partially credits music for this partnership since she says, “music makes the heart grow fonder.”
Since their marriage, they have a carried on a successful 12-year career, playing their jazz-based adaptations in a variety of venues from local restaurants, lounges, wineries and even outdoor events.
“Mostly restaurants are the ones that support live music, and wineries,” Rich said. “We’ve played in Hopewell Valley Vineyard on a number of occasions, the Witherspoon Grill, the Salt Creek Grill, the Americana Diner and Grape Escape Winery on Rt. 130, and Hopewell Valley Bistro.”
They also perform a gig once a month at Fedora’s in downtown Lawrenceville, with which they’ve had a longstanding working relationship with for 10 years.
Since Darla juggles two tasks at once – singing and playing the bass – she explained how it can be challenging sometimes.
“It’s a counterpoint, and it could be challenging to make those two things work together,” she said. “When I’m singing, there’s not the need for as much movement in a bass line because Rich is really good at rhythm, and I can support that and pay attention to the lyrics. However, when I’m not singing, that’s where I can open up and do a little bit more. You learn how to balance that all out when you’re singing and playing the bass.”
When they first started, Rich and Darla dabbled in performances with other musicians, temporarily transforming their duo, which is what they still do today.
“We often perform with other musicians, but it’s always guitar-based,” Rich said. “We’ll do anything from duos, trios to quartets, depending on who we can find that might be available if we get a gig. Sometimes we’ll ask people what they’re looking for and see what we can do if they’re private events or something like that.”
Rich and Darla don’t really advertise their duo other than at their events, which is ultimately how they secure various jobs and gigs.
“A lot of our jobs have come from people hearing us out at restaurants because that’s how they heard of us,” Rich said. “We try to just keep working so a lot of it is restaurant work. We have played for concerts, if someone is having a gathering – corporate event, anniversary party, and those types of events – and that’s why we try to play out as much as we can.”
Although Darla and Rich are conditioned musicians, they both explained how they still learn new things when they go out and see other musicians play, especially one of their close friends, Joshua Breakstone, who is also a guitarist and member of a duo.
“Any time we can go out to see them play as a duo, it inspires us and is a great way of learning more about jazz and the genre, how to perform music, and you get ideas,” Rich said. “A lot of our influence has come through all the listening we’ve done.”
For more information about the DarlaRich duo and their music, visit darlarich.com, or view their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/darlarichjazz.