Twenty five years ago the label “light classical” was the kiss of death. “Light” was too ordinary for classical high rollers and “classical” was too austere for hipsters. We have all moved on. Now we are post-Nigel Kennedy playing Meditation with spiked punk hair, opera hunks Il Divo have legions of women fans, Bond are the Pussy Cat Dolls for the classical revival and nymphet Vanessa Mae frolics in the surf with her see-through violin.

The crossover is complete; classical music has been made cool. As, Berg, the titanic German composer said to a reluctant Gershwin who had been invited to play his jazzy Rhapsody in Blue for the maestro: “Come Mr. Gershwin. Music is music!”  It’s all good.

The Nelson School of Music has been a spiritual home for New Zealand classical music composers and performers for over a century and the city is now recognised internationally as the host of the famous biennial Adam’s Chamber Music Festival. Nelson has garnered a reputation as the Strasbourg of the South Pacific. Among the benefits of this cultural maturing has been the emergence of string quartet, La Vida, a collaboration of four Nelsonian women: Margaret Jackson (violin), Helen Tippler (violin), Kate Sherwood (cello) and Clare Corban-Banks (viola).

La Vida have been playing together for two years. All four members are master musicians with impeccable musical pedigrees including connections to the NZSO and Schola Musica. But there is no fustiness here; they take their genre busting repertoire to the people. La Vida are as likely to throw down some Gershwin or Lennon-McCartney as they are to count off some Handel or Bach. And although they enjoy playing in concert halls, chapels and cathedrals they are just as comfortable busking at Nelson Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning.

La Vida are living the life. When I speak with violinist Helen Tippler it is a vivacious voice that comes down the phone proclaiming that “La Vida above all are really good friends”. The four gather each week to explore new music, rehearse for upcoming concerts and catch up with family news. For Tippler mixing discipline, discourse and deep friendship brings rewards on many levels. “We have all done years of study; more than most. And now we play the music just because we love it.”

Wednesday mornings La Vida are in rehearsal mode high on Britannia Heights looking across Tasman Bay. It’s a treat for Tippler’s neighbours. “One of the neighbours thought I had the Concert Programme turned up loud on the radio every Wednesday morning!”

When I ask what pieces La Vida are currently working on the Yuletide set list includes a Christmas Concerto by Corelli and excerpts from Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. But the ensemble’s wider repertoire ranges from Baroque to Brubeck and beyond. In concert they love letting fly, improvising on tango themes and jazz standards and bringing audiences to their feet.

 And then they lull them and send them into the night with a soothing rendition of Handel’s Lascia Chio Pianga.