The forerunner to the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (843/554-6060, www.charlestonsymphony.com ) performed for the first time on December 28, 1936, at the Hibernian Hall on Meeting Street. During that first season the CSO accompanied the inaugural show at the renovated Dock Street Theatre , The Recruiting Officer. For seven decades, the CSO continued to provide world-class orchestral music, gaining “Metropolitan” status in the 1970s, when they accompanied the first-ever local performance of Porgy and Bess, which despite its downtown setting couldn’t be performed locally before then due to segregation laws.
Sadly, as of this writing the CSO has suspended operations and cancelled the 2010–2011 season due to ongoing financial difficulties. I suggest checking the website, which is occasionally updated, for news.
However, the separate group Chamber Music Charleston (843/763-4941, www.chambermusiccharleston.org ), which relies on many core CSO musicians, continues to perform around town, including at Piccolo Spoleto . They play a wide variety of picturesque historic venues, including the Old Exchange  (120 E. Bay St.), the Calhoun Mansion  (16 Meeting St.), and the Footlight Players Theatre (20 Queen St.). They can also be found at private house concerts, which sell out quickly.
The excellent music department at the College of Charleston  sponsors the annual Charleston Music Fest (www.charlestonmusicfest.com ), a series of chamber music concerts at various venues around the beautiful campus, featuring many faculty members of the College as well as visiting guest artists.
Other College musical offerings include: The College of Charleston Concert Choir (www.cofc.edu/music ), which performs at various venues, usually churches, around town during the fall; the College of Charleston Opera, which performs at least one full-length production during the school year and often performs at Piccolo Spoleto ; and the popular Yuletide Madrigal Singers, who sing in early December at a series of concerts in historic Randolph Hall.