George Edward Percy Careless was a notable composer and conductor.
He was born on September 24, 1839, in London, England. His father, a woodcarver, berated his son for “wasting time” with music and told him to learn a trade. “George went to work in a shoemaking company, but his heart wasn’t in it. The plant foreman, a music lover who collected violins, loaned him one of them, and George soon learned to play it.”
- George’s father never accepted his devotion to music and told him to either give it up or leave the family. So when he was thirteen, George left home.
- Later, the shoe factory foreman loaned George the money to attend the Royal Academy of Music. After graduating in three years rather than the usual four, he was hired as a member of an orchestra that gave concerts in the Crystal Palace, England’s showplace for the arts. With his first earnings, he repaid the foreman.
He also performed at Exeter Hall and Drury Lane. At the same time, George worked to improve the musical activities of the Church in England. He directed a London Conference choir, earning it such a high reputation that it was invited to perform at several of London’s leading concert halls.
Careless was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1850. In the early 1860s, he came to Utah Territory and continued his musical contributions there. Not long after arriving in Salt Lake City, he was appointed conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Church president Brigham Young said to him, ““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.” Careless also conducted the Salt Lake Theatre orchestra and the Salt Lake Opera Company.
- After serving eleven years as director of the Tabernacle Choir, George resigned his post in 1880. His mission was to continue, though, when President John Taylor asked him to head a committee to write music for all the hymns to be included in The Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody, published in 1889. The Psalmody contained 330 hymns, three-fourths of them set to music by [Latter-day Saint] composers.
He wrote music for several hymns that are included in the 1985 Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These include “The Morning Breaks (#1), “Arise, O Glorious Zion" (40), "Though Deepening Trials" (#122), "Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire" (#145), "O Thou Kind and Gracious Father" (#150), "O Lord of Hosts" (#178), "Again We Meet Around the Board" (#186), "Behold the Great Redeemer Die" (#191), and "He Died! The Great Redeemer Died" (#192). Careless served on the General Music Committee into the last year of his life. He passed away on March 5, 1932.
He composed the music to “The Morning Breaks” while he was sailing from England to the United States and set it to a poem published by Parley P. Pratt in 1840.