Jacob Sandler, “Mayn Erster Tango” — מײַן ערשטער טאַנגאָ
Mayn Ershter Tango — מײַן ערשטער טאַנגאָ
On album: S-027(a) (Jacob Sandler Mayn Erster Tango — מײַן ערשטער טאַנגאָ)
Track ID: 9845
Author/Composer/Artist Sandler, Jacob — סאַנדלער, יעקבֿ
First line: Mayn ershtn tango mit dir, vel ikh in lebn nit fargesn,
First line:מײַן ערשטן טאַנגאָ מיט דיר, װעל איך אין לעבן ניר פֿאַרגעסן,
Jacob Koppel Sandler was an American-Russian composer and music director.
He was born on August 6, 1856 in Bialozerkove, Russia. He was a son of Isaac Moses and Bathsheba (Ostrowsky) Sandler.
He earned a meager living as the leader of an itinerant synagogue choir. When his parents had emigrated to America, he followed them, landing in New York in February 1888. After brief periods as an unsatisfactory operator in a shirt factory, and as an even more unsatisfactory peddler of goods sold on the instalment plan, he found employment in his favorite pursuit, that of directing a synagogue choir. The precarious living this work afforded he eked out as chorus director in a Yiddish theater of New York’s Ghetto, receiving a salary of from eight to ten dollars a week when the play was successful.
Sandler wrote the required irrelevant songs and choruses for such worthily forgotten pieces as The Princess Oath, and Die B’ne Moishe. When the latter drama proved an expensive failure, M. Horowitz Halevi undertook to write another to be entitled “Brocha, or the Jewish King of Poland. ” He asked Sandler for the incidental music, including a lament by a girl who was being crucified. That same night Sandler wrote several numbers, and in the early hours of the morning turned to his Hebrew Bible for inspiration for the lament. He found it in the first words of Psalm XXII, “Eili, Eili” – “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
Halevi’s play was produced in April 1896 at the Windsor Theater in the Bowery. Then the play was forgotten, and the song led an obscure half life in the Ghetto of New York. Later Sandler drifted away from the uncongenial commercialism of the theater, and, after supplementing his uncertain earnings as a synagogue musician by serving as salesman or messenger, he spent the last eleven years of his life in a minor but secure position in the office of the New York Times.
Meanwhile, his “Eili, Eili, ” virtually forgotten in America, had been carried back to Russia, the land of its spiritual origin. In 1909, M. Shalit, a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakoff, arranged it for publication by the St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music. In this form it was brought back to the United States by Kurt Schindler as a Jewish folk melody, and was first sung by Jacob Medvedieff on Dec. 26, 1915, and later by Sophie Braslau at the Metropolitan Opera House.
One of Sandler’s daughters who was in the audience gave her father the exciting news of the resurrection of his song after almost twenty years of oblivion. Then began a contest, waged not by the unassuming Sandler but by others, to prove him the composer of this soidisant folk song.
What Sandler himself craved was not the fortune in royalties that had been paid to publishers by singers, violinists, and phonograph companies, but the credit of authorship of the sublime lament. A lawsuit to establish his copyright proved unsuccessful, but in the last years of his life concert programs gave him credit for the song.
He worked in the Yiddish theater and was the choral director for several cantors. He composed several Jewish themed operettas, one of them featuring the famous song “Eli, Eli” (sometimes printed “Eili, Eili”). There is some dispute as to whether Sandler really composed it, others claiming it was originally a folk song.