THIS year’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival is just weeks away and there is much to celebrate.

Birthdays are high on the list. The festival has its own anniversary, its 35th, but is also marking major milestones in its programme connected to seminal composers.

John Cage’s Centennial will be marked by what promises to be one of this year’s festival’s most exciting events when virtuoso violinist Irvine Arditti performs Cage’s incredibly complex Freeman Etudes.

But the festival programme which has already been announced, shows that it will not just salute Cage, it will mark the 60th birthday of German composer Wolfgang Rihm and the 80th of another, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen who is Danish.

The festival opens on November 16 and its 10-day programme will offer more than 60 events in venues across the town.

For more than three decades, hcmf has championed new music and is now regarded as one of the top festivals of its kind worldwide.

It brings musicians, composers and artists to Huddersfield every November to share the latest developments in new music.

Its pursuit of musical excellence has won it awards and international as well as national fame.

About 10,000 people attend or take part in the festival each year, many of them travelling to Huddersfield not just from the corners of this country but from countries across the globe.

They will celebrate Rihm’s birthday with the UK premiere of Vigilia, a new work which will bring together the combined forces of musicFabrik and Exaudi.

A trio of celebrations is completed when the London Sinfonietta plays the work of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreeen.

Elsewhere, the ground-breaking work that the festival has long been associated with continues.

Where else would you perhaps expect to see an interactive baby opera for children under three?

The UK premiere of Korall Koral is part of the ground-breaking Learning and Participation events which are such a key part of the festival programming.

Another must-see in this area of work is Lifelines, a choral piece by world-renowned composer and multi-instrumentalist John Surman co-commissioned by hcmf and BBC Radio 3.

The world premiere will be performed by Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir on the first Saturday of the festival in Huddersfield Town Hall.

The choir will then travel to London to perform the piece at the London Jazz Festival, where they will be recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio 3.

The festival programme also features the UK premiere of String Quartet No 2: Traces, a new work by Yorkshire-born composer Naomi Pinnock, performed by festival favourites, the virtuoso Arditti Quartet.

Graham McKenzie, artistic director of hcmf for the last six years, has put the unique voice of Norwegian Maja S K Ratkje at the heart of this year’s festival.

She is this year’s composer-in-residence and concerts of her work will be performed through the festival.

It will give contemporary music fans an opportunity to experience her work both as a composer and as a performer.

There will be world premieres of Maja’s work including a performance by Norway’s Cikada Ensemble, one of Europe’s leading contemporary music ensembles.

Other world premieres include works by the 2010 hcmf// composer-in-residence, British composer Rebecca Saunders, and Claudia Molitor, who is also showing a film of her work, Remember Me, a miniature, multimedia opera staged inside her grandmother’s writing desk.

There is also the return of Free Monday ( November 19), which centres its programming around hcmf// shorts, a series of short performances showcasing both established and new talent and offering emerging artists the opportunity to perform at the UK’s leading new music festival.