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“Music gives back to me everything life has taken from me when I am on that stage.

I can truly give back to so many that have given to me. “

Karen Underwood is a singer, writer and storyteller from Chicago who has lived in Cork for more than two decades.

She has performed in countless festivals, concerts and shows.


Karen has created:

The Nina in Me - an autobiographical show of Karen’s life punctuated with the music of Nina Simone, and directed by John O'Brien (piano), and later featuring Fionn Ó Ceallacháin (drums) and Dave Whitla (bass)


Singing Nina - the life of Nina Simone and her music with Eoghan Regan (guitar), Bob Jackson (drums), Pete Hannigan (bass) and Art O'Leary (keys)

The Story of Soul - a journey through the soul music in America with Eoghan, Art, Bob and Jerome Rimson (bass)


Of Ladies Lost and Found - the stories of divas that left us too soon and women that inspire her today with John


Feeling Good with Karen Underwood and Her Friends - a concert curated with John and featuring Eoghan, Davie Ryan (drums) and Dave Duffy (bass)


Generations - written with her daughter Christiana - they both tell and sing intimate stories of the joy and pain of mother / daughter relationships - again with John, Dave Whitla and Fionn


Aretha Queen of Soul - Karen and 17 talented musicians - conducted by Tom Crowley - bringing the music of Aretha to life.

She is the Artistic Director of Cork's Soul in the City Festival since 2015.

Karen debuted Lilith - a song cycle commissioned by Cork’s Midsummer Festival, and written by Eadaoin O’ Donoghue with music by John O’Brien, at the 2019 Festival.

Karen was invited by the Cork Opera House to sing at the inaugural Cork Proms with her artist friends Majella Cullagh, Kim Sheehan, Laoise Leahy, Camilla Grieshel for a fabulous celebration of Divas supported by the Cork Opera House Concert Orchestra.


Festival Performances include:

Out To Lunch Festival, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival & The Festival of Fools (Belfast), Electric Picnic, Body and Soul Festival, Cork Guinness Jazz Festival, Clonmel Junction Festival, Mother Jones Festival, Marlay Park Walled Garden Festival and Castlepalooza.


She has whipped up audiences with her confessionary style performances at major venues throughout Ireland such as The National Concert Hall, Vicar Street, The Olympia, The Gaiety, Cork opera House, Millennium Forum Theatre Derry, INEC and many more.

Karen’s radio and television appearances include TV3, TG4, The Marian Finucane Show, The Pat Kenny Show, The Miriam O’Callaghan Show and The John Creedon Show.


Karen continues to do charitable work for suicide prevention organisations, and for organisations that cater for people with disabilities. She has a BS in psychology from University of Illinois Chicago and a HDIP in Psychotherapy from UCC, and has four honours diplomas with ITEC.


Karen is a keen gardener and cook. She lives with her wife in Cork and visits her Chicago family regularly.

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