The year was 1879, and living was hardscrabble in Faulkner County.

Binding the people together was their old-time religion.

To worship, they gathered in homes, in country churches or in outdoor make-shift shelters called brush arbors, often near a stream, suitable for baptisms.

The gathering places were a buggy or wagon ride away; many families walked together, carrying lunch for each or food to share at the "potluck" for dinner on the grounds in the middle of the day-long service.

Central to every gathering was the music. There were no songbooks, and except for an occasional guitar or banjo, there were no instruments.

The song leader was essential. He knew the words, the tune. He sang the song through one time, a few folks at a time caught on to the tune, learned the words and soon everyone was singing.

It was joyous. Music was the best these hard-working pioneers had.

Descendants of some of those pioneers will gather soon for the 134th Annual Session of the Faulkner County Singing Convention.

LifeSong Baptist Church in Greenbrier will host the gathering, beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 20 and for the day-long event on Saturday, July 21, beginning at 10 a.m., breaking for the potluck at noon and resuming at 1 p.m.

"Beginning in 1879, this Convention has brought together singing communities in the county for mutual support and development," said Ben McNew.

A constitution was adopted in 1887, and one of its articles provided that the "Convention shall be opened and closed by prayer."

Convention minutes over the years have recorded delegates, singers, pianists and deaths in the community.

"These minutes contain references to many county pioneers whose descendants will be involved in the 2012 Session," McNew said.

Officers of the assembly are Robert Clark, president; Jonathan Sawrie, vice president; H. R. Neal, chaplain; Margie Fulmer, secretary; Martha Wilcox, treasurer; and Raymond Louis Bush, sergeant-at-arms. For more information, call Mr. Bush at 501-329-5040.

The public is invited.

"We anticipate a joyful celebration," McNew said.

(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at becky.harris@thecabin.net and 505-1234.)