Women-led Businesses Working Together to Revitalize Quaker Hill

Quaker Hill - Mayor Purzycki

Fr. Klein of the Cathedral of St. Peter, WCO’s Marisa Robinson, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, WCO’s Kirsten C. Kunkle, and Quaker Hill Historic Preservation Foundation’s Ashley Cloud at a performance of Der Freischutz. November, 2017

In the spring of 2016, my friend and fellow soprano Kirsten C. Kunkle and I decided to put together a performance of Puccini’s Suor Angelica, to fill a gap in our performance schedules for that fall.

The first order of business? To find a suitable Wilmington venue. We reached out to friends in the community, and Ashley Cloud, executive director of the Quaker Hill Historic Preservation Foundation (QHPPF), stepped up to help.

Quaker Hill - St. Peters

For nearly two centuries, the Cathedral of St. Peter has stood at the corner of Sixth and West Streets in Wilmington. From its perch atop Quaker Hill, the Cathedral has enjoyed a fascinating and rich history.

Ashley suggested the historic Cathedral of St. Peter in Quaker Hill as an ideal venue, especially with the Cathedral’s 200th anniversary coming up that year.

What is Quaker Hill, you ask? Well, the district dates back to the early 18th century when Quakers such as William Shipley and Thomas West built the first residences and Meeting House in the area. During the Revolutionary War, Washington and Lafayette were quartered on Quaker Hill. Among those buried in Wilmington Friends Meeting are John Dickinson, signer of the Constitution, and Thomas Garrett – the preeminent abolitionist who worked with William Still and Harriett Tubman to conduct thousands of slaves to freedom.


Kirsten and I loved the historical significance of Quaker Hill and the beauty of the location, and along with QHPPF’s Ashley Cloud, the three of us set plans for a performance in November 2016.

Suor Angelica was a smashing success.

To our surprise, the first question posed by both audience members and performers was “What are we doing next?” And so, Wilmington Concert Opera (WCO) suddenly became Wilmington’s newest opera company, becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit in April 2018.

Quaker Hill - Wilmington Concert Opera

Robinson (lavender gown) and Kunkle (white gown) with the cast of Wilmington Concert Opera’s Der Freischutz at St. Peter’s Church, Quaker Hill

Since that first performance, WCO has produced two gala concerts and one more full opera, von Weber’s Der Freischütz, as well as a musical theater concert and much anticipated annual appearances at Quaker Hill’s Strawberry Festival.

This fall’s production, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, will be performed at Trinity Episcopal Church in Swarthmore on November 16 at 7:30 pm, and at the Cathedral of St. Peter on November 18 at 2 pm.

During our two years in Quaker Hill, WCO has found a wonderful partner in the Quaker Hill Historic Preservation Foundation (QHHPF). Now it’s time for Wilmington Concert Opera to return the favor.

Quaker Hill - Timeless Love Gala

Robinson (white gown) and Kunkle (black gown) with the cast of Wilmington Concert Opera’s Timeless Love Gala at St. Peter’s Church, Quaker Hill

QHPPF is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a gala dinner and lecture at the University and Whist Club on November 8th at 6 pm, and WCO will be there with bells on, to celebrate their successes and to provide the entertainment. 

Kirsten (now Artistic Director of WCO) and I (now Executive Director of WCO) will be joined by several of our favorite WCO collaborators to present selections from their upcoming Figaro at the cocktail hour. We hope you can join us, either there or at a full performance of Figaro.

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About the Contributor

Marisa Robinson

Marisa Robinson

Soprano Marisa Robinson has performed opera, operetta, and musical theater all over the greater Philadelphia region. Favorite roles include Ännchen in Der Freischütz (Wilmington Concert Opera), Angelina in Trial by Jury (Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Chester County, Rose Valley Chorus and Orchestra), Casilda in The Gondoliers (The Savoy Company, The Ardensingers). Offstage, Marisa is the Executive Director of Wilmington Concert Opera, a Pure Barre addict, and a ridiculous fan of peanut butter with chocolate.