His early works show the influence of Grieg, Wagner,Richard Strauss and fellow student Ralph Vaughan Williams, and later, through Vaughan Williams, the music of Ravel. The combined influence of Ravel, Hindu spiritualism and English folk tunes enabled Holst to free himself of the influence of Wagner and Strauss and to forge his own style. Holst's music is well known for unconventional use of metre and haunting melodies.
Holst composed almost 200 works, including operas, ballets, choral hymns and songs. An enthusiastic educator, Holst became music master at St Paul's Girls' School in 1905 and director of music at Morley College in 1907, continuing in both posts until retirement. He also taught singing at Wycombe Abbey School from 1912 until 1917.
He was the brother of Hollywood actor Ernest Cossart and father of the composer and conductor Imogen Holst, who wrote a biography of him in 1938.