The 11-Year-Old Convert Who Grew Up & Changed Music in Salt Lake City
In 1850, George Edward Percy Careless was 11 years old and a recently baptized member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Surely the missionaries who taught and baptized this young boy had no idea that he would one day leave his mark on the history of the Church through music.
Careless’s musical career began in London in 1862 after he completed formal studies at the Royal Academy of Music. He was successful and would perform under the direction of many of the famous conductors working in London. He also directed the choir of his local congregation and presented concerts for Church members and their friends as part of the London Conference meetings.
In 1864, Careless joined other members of the Church on the Hudson, a boat bound for the United States. He made his way to Salt Lake City by train and arrived ready to continue his musical career among members of his faith.
Little by little, Careless accumulated an impressive group of clients who paid him for music lessons. Often, his students couldn’t pay in cash. In those situations, he accepted payment in the form of goods and services. Nonetheless, Careless had sufficient to survive and progress in his profession.
In 1865, President Brigham Young approached Careless and said, “Brother George, I have a mission for you. I want you to be Chief Musician of the Church. I want you to take the Tabernacle Choir and the Theatre Orchestra and lay a foundation for good music.”
From that point on—until his death in 1932—Careless was at the hub of the Church’s musical activities. Not only did he lead the Choir and Orchestra, he continued to compose and arrange hymns. He had a hand in bringing forth the official hymnal of the Church, which included many of the hymns he had written. Careless also served on the General Music Committee into the final year of his life.
“The Morning Breaks” was written by Careless while he was sailing to the United States from England on the Hudson. The song is set to the words of a Parley P. Pratt hymn published in 1840. For more information on the history behind this hymn, listen to Episode 9 of the History of Hymns series on The Mormon Channel. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs the song in the video below.