Martha Lynn Thompson is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, and is a graduate of Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where she received her Bachelor of Music Education degree with a major in organ and a minor in piano and theory. For several years she taught junior high school choral music in the North Little Rock, Arkansas, public school system, and since 1970, she has been the organist at St. James United Methodist Church in Little Rock where her husband, Felix Thompson, is the Director of Music. Jointly they direct the St. James handbell program. She is certified as a director of Music and is also a Diaconal Minister in the United Methodist Church.
In 1965 the Thompsons were introduced to handbells in their work at the Methodist Children’s Home of Arkansas. From the beginning, they used the bells as a tool to encourage teamwork and to develop self-control, dependability, and self-confidence. Today, more than ever, they regard the handbells as a means of getting the young person and the whole family back into participating church membership. Since October 1970, the St. James Music Ministry has grown from 2 to 14 choirs. Today the 300 member music program of the church includes 5 singing choirs and 9 handbell choirs – a ringing group for every age from 4th grade through adult.
Each year the three or four select senior high and junior high bell choirs participate in either the regional or national American Guild of English Handbell Ringers festivals, often making tours in conjunction with these festivals. The Thompsons have used these St. James Ringers as demonstration choirs in directors’ classes that they have taught at AGEHR Festivals and at other bell festivals and workshops over the country. The St. James Celebration Ringers have made two of the six records in a select series of handbell recordings made by Harold Flammer and Omnisound. The first recording is entitled FANFARE FOR BELLS and the second, CELEBRATION FOR BELLS.
Martha Lynn has been certified by the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers as a Workshop Clinician and has taught classes in “Bell Assignments”, “Arranging and Composing for Handbells”, and “Color-Coding Bell Music” at national and regional AGEHR festivals and workshops, and she has also conducted beginning seminars for handbell directors. She has had articles on some of these subjects published in CHORISTERS GUILD LETTERS, CREATOR MAGAZINE, and the AGEHR publication, OVERTONES.
In 1981, the Thompsons were appointed chairpersons in charge of developing an educational video tape program and library for the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers.
In addition to being a member of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, Martha Lynn is also a member of Choristers Guild, the American Guild of Organists, the Fellowship of United Methodist Musicians, and ASCAP. She has over 50 published handbell transcriptions and arrangements, including two Christmas collections published by Fred Bock Music Company. With Frances Callahan, she has written a collection of music for the beginning bell choir entitled READY TO RING, published by Agape. She is also the author of a handbook for directors and ringers entitled “BELL, BOOK, AND RINGER”, published by Harold Flammer, Inc.